Last week, the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, declared that he has officially taken control over Twitter in a $44bn (£38.1bn) deal.
The deal sparked large scale rights concerns over one of the world’s most widely used social media and communication platforms.
“Elon Musk’s plans for Twitter will make it an even more hate-filled cesspool, leading to irreparable real-world harm,” said the Stop the Deal Coalition, an alliance of groups that includes Accountable Tech, Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen, and the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism.
“Musk’s plans will leave the platform more vulnerable to security threats, rampant disinformation, and extremism just ahead of the midterm elections,” the coalition said. “Elon Musk has a thirst for chaos and utter disregard for anyone other than himself, and should not own Twitter.”
Musk wasted no time imposing himself on the company, swiftly firing several top executives including CEO Parag Agrawal.
The Twitter deal raised serious concerns over tightening the grip on human rights advocates by the repressive regimes, including the Saudi regime, amid reports that Musk has accepted financing from Saudi Prince.
Saudi Arabia is hardly a bastion of free speech where online activists are suppressed at home and abroad: Earlier this year, the ex-Twitter employee Ahmad Abouammo was accused of using his inside access to gather and pass on dissidents’ account information to Bader Al-Asaker, a top Saudi government associate connected to the royal family.
A few weeks ago, the Saudi researcher and doctoral student Salma Al-Shehab was sentenced to 34 years in prison for spreading “rumors” and retweeting dissidents.
Salma’s verdict was followed by a 45-year prison sentence against the female detainee Noura bint Saeed Al-Qahtani after being convicted of “using the internet to tear the (Saudi) social fabric.” A Saudi-US citizen was also sentenced to 16 years in prison over tweets criticizing the regime.
Along the same line, the Saudi aid worker Abdul Rahman Al-Sadhan was sentenced to 20 years in prison by Saudi Arabian for anonymous, satirical tweets.
In March 2018, the activist Turki al-Jasser was arrested and forcibly disappeared for nearly two years over his human rights advocacy. In 2020, he had allowed him to make a phone call to his family for the first time. However, since then he has been denied any further contact and remains forcibly disappeared.
This came amid growing warning that Elon Musk’s owning of one of the world’s most powerful communication platforms would really threaten human rights activists’ life in non-free countries.