MPs want Elon Musk at parliament to explain plans for Twitter

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MPs have invited billionaire Elon Musk to give evidence to a parliament committee about his plans for Twitter. Concerns have been raised over Musk’s intent to champion “free speech” on the platform as well as introducing fees for governments and organisations to use it.

Chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMSC)  Julian Knight has written to Musk welcoming the 50-year-old Tesla and SpaceX boss’ commitment to removing automated bots and spam accounts from Twitter.

“Appearing before the Committee will give Mr Musk an ideal opportunity to set out his proposals in more depth and we would look forward to welcoming him,” said Knight.

Musk hints Twitter may charge governments

Musk’s $44 billion takeover of Twitter was agreed last week with the deal expected to be closed later this year. He tweeted yesterday that “Twitter will always be free for casual users, but [there] maybe a slight cost for commercial/government users”.

Musk later added: “Ultimately, the downfall of the Freemasons was giving away their stonecutting services for nothing”.

In his letter, posted on the platform, Knight, the Conservative MP for Solihull, wrote that Musk’s “intention to roll out verification for all users echoes our calls on the UK government as part of proposed legislation, which we hope will restore the UK public’s trust in digital platforms.”

Knight said his committee’s 2020 report on misinformation in the Covid ‘Infodemic’ called for greater transparency of bots and spam accounts. A joint committee report in December 2021 on the government’s Online Safety Bill looked at ways to balance liberties and freedom of expression “with the need to tackle pernicious, pervasive online child sexual exploitation and abuse.

“I therefore wish to take this opportunity to invite you to speak before our committee and discuss your proposals in more depth,” he added.

“I know you have expressed your wish that critics remain on Twitter and this may present an opportunity to address any critiques in public.”

Knight’s committee has few powers to oblige Musk to appear before them. It’s previous chairman – Conservative MP Damian Collins, who now chairs the Draft Online Safety Bill joint committee – “repeatedly and unsuccessfully” tried to get Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg to give evidence before them.

At Monday’s (May 2) Met Gala showbiz event in New York, Musk said he will make Twitter’s promotion and demotion of tweets transparent and that he wants to make its software available for public scrutiny.

On Tuesday the Wall Street Journal reported that billionaire Musk “has told potential investors he could return the social-media company to public ownership after just a few years.”

People “familiar with the matter” said Musk – the world’s richest person with a net worth estimated by Forbes to be £245 billion – “plans to stage an initial public offering of Twitter in as little as three years of buying it”.

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