Have no personal feelings in relation to who manages Twitter: UN chief Guterres on Elon Musk

PTI, Dec 20, 2022, 8:04 AM IST

(Credit: Twitter / Screenshot)

United Nations: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said he has “no personal feelings” about who manages Twitter, but he is “very interested” in how the platform is managed, underlining the importance of combating hate speech and ensuring freedom of expression, especially of journalists, on social media platforms.

“I have no personal feelings in relation to who manages a platform. I am very interested in about how the platform is managed,” he said here on Monday.

Guterres was responding to a question during his end-of-the-year press conference on whether he thinks Twitter’s owner Elon Musk was a threat to free speech and would he be relieved if the billionaire stepped down as head of the social media platform.

Twitter users had voted on Monday for Musk to quit as head of the social media giant in a poll the technology tycoon ran on his future and promised to abide by its results.

A total of 57.5 per cent of people voted ”yes” after the 51-year-old billionaire asked his 122 million followers whether he should stand down. Over 17 million votes were cast in the poll that began on Sunday evening and ended early Monday morning with most respondents voting in the affirmative, CNN reported.

Musk tweeted on Sunday, ”Should I step down as head of Twitter? I will abide by the results of this poll.” “As the saying goes, be careful what you wish, as you might get it,” he added in a later tweet.

Guterres said there is a particular responsibility of social media platforms to preserve the freedom of press and at the same time to avoid hate speech and forms of extremism.

“And I would be particularly shocked if we would see the freedom of press being threatened, journalists not being allowed to do their work and, at the same time, hate speech proliferating,” the United Nations chief said.

“And so, obviously, my recommendation to whoever owns any platform is to make sure that the freedom of expression, especially of journalists, is respected and that hate speech, neo-Nazism, white supremacism, and other forms of extremism, do not find their way through these social platforms,” he added.

Guterres, who has 2 million followers on Twitter, was asked in what circumstances he would consider closing his account and whether he would be interested in meeting with Musk.

“Well, I will do whatever my conscience tells me to do in the moment in which it makes sense. So, for the moment, I think that the most reasonable thing is to maintain the account as it is, as the account has, also, an important role to play. But of course, we will be attentive to the situation,” he resonded.

He added that the question is not about meeting people.

“The question is to have clear rules… clear rules that we need to establish in order for responsibilities of social media platforms to be clarified.

“We live in a kind of a legal void in which these platforms can do whatever they want, can convey whatever they want, and there are no legal consequences,” Guterres said.

He noted that journalists at news outlets, TV stations and newspapers are responsible for what they publish.

”Social media platforms are not legally responsible for what they publish, and in many circumstances – it is not only the question of publishing something that is put there by someone else is that the algorithms are such that those algorithms amplify what is being put there. And there, I think, we need to create some forms of regulation that clarify responsibilities in that regard,” Guterres added.

Since buying Twitter for USD 44 billion and taking over as the CEO in late October, Musk, who also runs Tesla and SpaceX, has journeyed from one controversy to the next.

Musk also announced on Twitter that major policy changes would be voted on moving forward.

The poll comes as Twitter says it will shut down accounts solely designed to promote other social media platforms. The measure would also affect accounts that link off to or contain usernames from platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Truth Social, Tribel, Nostr, and Post, the company said in a tweet, the BBC reported.

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