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The Roundtable: Is Elon Musk's "Unpredictability" What Social Media Needs?

The technologist brings a provocative ethos to Twitter.

Elon Musk’s plans for Twitter remain unclear, perhaps as much to himself as to the general public. But regardless of where he takes the company, the entrepreneur’s acquisition of the platform marks a turning point for the internet, social media and public discourse. A panel of commentators joined Roundtable to discuss what Musk’s Twitter could look like and how it may shape the future of social networks and speech. In this segment, the panel discusses what Musk’s anticipated changes may do for Twitter.

Joy Villa notes that the platform’s practices of banning users has a significant impact on speech.

“It’s like saying, you can still shop, you just can't go to the mall, which is where all the shops are, or like you can still travel, you just can't go to New York,” she says. “That's when you're saying somebody can't be on Twitter or Facebook. Banning is a very serious thing.”

Villa argues that Musk’s “unpredictability” could be an asset for Twitter. “We need communication in social media. We need discourse. We need more of that relaxed nature,” she says. “Elon Musk is not under the thumb of this whole culture. So his wildness, I think, will actually set us free on Twitter.”

Roy Gutterman cautions, though, that Musk could well exercise his own form of censorship on the platform.

“The other area of concern would be that if he wakes up one day after he buys this and realizes he doesn't like how it's going, and then decides certain people can be blocked just as easily under the new regime,” he says. Perhaps he's going to be a benevolent media owner, or he could be something else.”

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Watch the full discussion below:

Roundtable Guests:

Roy Gutterman, Director, Tully Center for Free Speech

Jason Gainous, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Duke Kunshan University

Joy Villa, Actress, Singer and Songwriter