The pride of many South Africans could not help but swell this week when Elon Musk, the SA-born entrepreneur and richest person on the planet, acquired Twitter. Musk allegedly plans to take the social media company private, and has said he wants Twitter to adhere more closely to the principles of free speech. As journalists, this news could not be more welcome. In response to this news, PANDA – Pandemics ~ Data & Analytics – penned the following open letter to Elon Musk. – Nadya Swart
Open letter to Elon Musk
By Abir Ballan, MPH*
Congratulations on the acquisition of Twitter. We hope this will help put the world on track to be a better place.
You stated that “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated…” We hope this is a promise to uphold the right to free speech and peaceful assembly on Twitter; both essential components of the democratic process.
We hope the dark days of witch-hunting and book-burning are behind us. Human nature is not always at its best. Deception is normal. Corruption is normal. Greed for money, power and fame is normal. This is human nature. What is not normal is for society to accept the removal of the mechanism of error correction. We believe that with free speech, errors can be corrected and wrong-doers can be held accountable.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, authority figures have spread false information unhindered. The fact of the matter is that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is not so novel and not as deadly to the general population as has been portrayed. The asymptomatic spread theory was a fear-mongering tool used to subdue the population. The unconstitutional mandates of lockdowns, masks, social distancing, testing and contact tracing, and mass vaccination were all ineffective in the management of this airborne virus and caused great harm to society. Those who dared to speak out against them were silenced and falsely accused of misinformation while the public fell victim to relentless propaganda. The absurdity of these suppressions lies in the fact that much of what was regarded as misinformation a year ago is now accepted as truth by those who encouraged such sanctions.
Throughout history, the wrong-doers were never those who spoke their truth at great personal cost. The wrong-doers were always those motivated to suppress the truth. What do they have to hide? What do they have to gain? How long should they be allowed to walk free without being questioned?
We look forward to the changes you plan to implement on Twitter and ask you to consider adding the following points to your first board meeting agenda:
- Discuss the new features, open source algorithms, spam bots
- Clarify to the public your position on ‘authenticating all humans’. Does this merely refer to eliminating bots or does it include eliminating the possibility of anonymity? Historically, many injustices have been revealed by anonymous whistle-blowers.
PANDA is committed to open science, open society and open debate. Societies cannot flourish without the courage to speak out and challenge existing assumptions.
Thank you for playing your part. We will continue to play ours. We owe it to our fellow citizens.
*Abir Ballan has a masters in Public Health and a background in psychology and education. She is appalled by how readily society has sacrificed its children during the Covid-19 pandemic. She is a member of the Executive Committee at PANDA (Pandemics ~ Data & Analytics) – Twitter, Facebook, Telegram, LinkedIn.