Real Time host Bill Maher he supports Elon Musk's rise to Twitter's board of directors, saying the Tesla CEO is what's needed to fix social media's 'control' on free speech

Bill Maher cheers on Elon Musk joining Twitter: He wants to fix social media

Real Time host Bill Maher supported Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s latest move of joining Twitter’s board of directors, saying the richest man in the world could put an end to the social media platform’s ‘control’ on free speech.

Taking questions from viewers on Friday, Maher addressed one submission that asked him and his guests, New York Times writer David Leonhardt and author Nancy MacLean, what their thoughts were on Musk becoming Twitter’s largest-single shareholder when he purchased 9.2 percent of the company on Monday.

‘I’m for it,’ Maher said.

When his guests voiced their reservations, Maher explained that he believed Twitter has gotten so ingrained into our lives and daily discourse, that it could no longer ban users as it would amount to suppression of free speech.

‘We live in a different age where Twitter is the public square now,’ Maher said. ‘If you deny someone’s right to speak on Twitter, you’re basically saying you don’t have free speech rights.’

‘I think that’s what Elon Musk wants to fix at Twitter.’

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Real Time host Bill Maher he supports Elon Musk’s rise to Twitter’s board of directors, saying the Tesla CEO is what’s needed to fix social media’s ‘control’ on free speech

Musk, the richest man in the world and prominent Twitter critic, sent shockwaves when he purchased 9.2 percent of the company's stock on Monday, making him the largest shareholder

Musk, the richest man in the world and prominent Twitter critic, sent shockwaves when he purchased 9.2 percent of the company’s stock on Monday, making him the largest shareholder

Maher (left) explained that Twitter is the new 'public square' and that denying someone a chance to speak on the platform was like denying them their right to freedom of speech

Maher (left) explained that Twitter is the new ‘public square’ and that denying someone a chance to speak on the platform was like denying them their right to freedom of speech

Musk has repeatedly voiced his opposition to the way Twitter bans accounts, saying the company fails to ‘adhere to free speech principles’ and ‘undermines democracy.’

Many conservatives have voiced hope that Musk would reactivate Donald Trump’s Twitter account after the former president was permanently kicked off the platform in January 2021 after he was accused of stoking the Capitol riot.

Leonhardt admitted that the possible return of Trump’s account was the first thing on his mind when he heard about Musk joining Twitter’s board of directors.

‘Are we gonna have to read Donald Trump’s tweets again, soon?’ Leonhardt asked.

‘Which is a tough one, because once they took Trump off Twitter, things did get better,’ Maher joked. ‘But it’s bad for free speech.

‘We’re not living in 1980 anymore. This is a different world we live in where social media controls [free speech],’ Maher added.

‘So social media is sort of a… it’s living in a space that’s not exactly a publication, but it’s not exactly a private company either… That’s why it’s so tricky.’

Maher also voiced his concerns that when Twitter bans people from its platform, they go on to other social media sites where they congregate with thoughts that ‘Big Tech and Big Government’ are ‘ganging up’ against them.

Leonhardt argued that while freedom of speech is important, it needs to be balanced with the dangers caused by lies, specifically noting Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

He said Maher’s description of what Twitter has become was what was given to media outlets decades ago.

‘But they didn’t air lies about election fraud,’ Leonhardt said. ‘You couldn’t turn on Walter Cronkite and hear like, ”Actually, Barry Goldwater won the election,” right? That’s now what you get on Twitter from Donald Trump.’

Maher, however, said Twitter can ban people for a whole slew of reasons, saying users have been banned or suspended for discussing the possibility that the coronavirus came from a lab in Wuhan, China, when the social media company began cracking down on pandemic misinformation .

‘We don’t know where coronavirus came from, but there’s no reason to think it couldn’t have emerged from a lab,’ Maher said. ‘They have a lab in Wuhan that was studying coronavirus, And you couldn’t even discuss this.

‘I mean, that’s outrageous.’

Musk's criticisms over Twitter bans has reignited conservative hopes that former president Donald Trump's account could be reactivated.  Trump was banned a day after the January 6 Capitol riot after making false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen

Musk’s criticisms over Twitter bans has reignited conservative hopes that former president Donald Trump’s account could be reactivated. Trump was banned a day after the January 6 Capitol riot after making false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen

Maher's guests, New York Times writer David Leonhardt (right) and author Nancy MacLean, voiced their concerns of Musk's rise at Twitter, saying the freedom of speech needed to be balanced with the dangers caused by spreading misinformation

Maher’s guests, New York Times writer David Leonhardt (right) and author Nancy MacLean, voiced their concerns of Musk’s rise at Twitter, saying the freedom of speech needed to be balanced with the dangers caused by spreading misinformation

MacLean also voiced her concerns about Musk joining Twitter and noted that the move has riled up employees at the Silicon Valley company to the point where Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal has insisted that Musk poses no threat to the firm’s culture, saying he wouldn’t be put in charge of major decisions.

Musk has agreed to sit down for a question-and-answer session with staff at the San Francisco-based firm after snapping up 9.2 percent of the company on April 4 for $3.7 billion, making him its largest shareholder.

Many have spent the week moaning about Musk and accused him of being a ‘transphobe’ over a 2020 tweet mocking pronouns, as well as a bully.

Announcing the ‘ask me anything’ session, or AMA, in an email sent Thursday, Agrawal wrote: ‘We say that Twitter is what’s happening and what people are talking about right now. Often, we [at] Twitter are what’s happening and what people are talking about. That has certainly been the case this week.

‘Following our board announcement, many of you have had different types of questions about Elon Musk, and I want to welcome you to ask those questions to him.’

It is unclear when the session will take place, and whether it will be in-person at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters or held virtually.

Such town halls are common in Silicon Valley – but only for CEOs and other executives. It is exceptionally rare for a shareholder to be put under the spotlight, The Washington Post reported.

Musk joked about his purchase of nine per cent of Twitter stock in this tweet sent Thursday

Musk joked about his purchase of nine per cent of Twitter stock in this tweet sent Thursday

Earlier this week, he asked tweeters if they'd like to see an edit button, with the firm subsequently confirming that one was already in the works

Earlier this week, he asked tweeters if they’d like to see an edit button, with the firm subsequently confirming that one was already in the works

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal tweeted afterwards that 'the consequences of this poll will be important,' apparently trolling Musk for saying the same thing in a March 25 tweet about whether the company 'adheres to the principle' of free speech

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal tweeted afterwards that ‘the consequences of this poll will be important,’ apparently trolling Musk for saying the same thing in a March 25 tweet about whether the company ‘adheres to the principle’ of free speech

Earlier this week, Musk tweeted a poll saying ‘Do you want an edit button?’ for Twitter.

Agrawal later responded to the tweet: ‘The consequences of this poll will be important. Please vote carefully,’ apparently trolling Musk for saying the same thing in a March 25 tweet when he questioned whether Twitter ‘adheres to the principle’ of free speech.

A majority of voters said yes, with bosses there confirming one is already in the works when it was announced April 1 and denied that Musk had any role in its inception.

News of Musk’s purchase also sent shares soaring by 27 per cent, sparking excitement among investors who hope he’ll help Twitter catch-up with its far more profitable rivals Facebook and Instagram.

But staffers there have been angered over his stance on issues including pronouns and free speech.

Workers at the firm – which has been blamed for exacerbating ongoing culture wars across the world – are said to have spent all week in a frenzy over Musk’s purchase.

Writing on an internal message board, according to the Post, one employee raged: ‘We know that he has caused harm to workers, the trans community, women, and others with less power in the world.

‘How are we going to reconcile this decision with our values? Does innovation trump humanity.’

Another wrote: ‘Quick question: If an employee tweeted some of the things Elon tweets, they’d likely be the subject.’

And a third ex-Tesla worker said they were fearful of a repeat of what they claimed was a toxic work culture fostered by Musk at the electric car firm.

That worker said: ‘I’m extremely unnerved right now, because I’ve seen what he can do firsthand.’

Agrawal insisted that Musk poses no threat to the firm’s culture, saying he wouldn’t be put in charge of major decisions.

Musk has 80.9 million Twitter users and regularly uses the site to communicate with his fans.

He has even found himself the subject of an ongoing Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) probe over his use of the site.

In August 2018, he tweeted that he had secured funding to take Tesla public at $420 a share – a joke referring to cannabis, which is also known as 4:20.

But Musk was accused of meddling with the markets, and was told by the SEC that he must have his tweets checked by lawyers before posting them.

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