Asia’s dissidents anxious over Elon Musk’s Twitter reign | Business and Economy News

Taipei, Taiwan – Singaporean activist and journalist Kirsten Han makes use of Twitter to speak about issues that Singapore’s authorities would somewhat hold secret.

Han’s outspoken posts draw consideration to the rights of migrant employees, the racism the federal government claims doesn’t exist and, most frequently, the tons of of executions of non-violent drug offenders carried out within the city-state over the previous few a long time.

For her work, Han has been condemned on the ground of Singapore’s parliament and focused by the police, one thing she additionally tweets about to the 29,000-odd followers of her verified account.

In June, Han was required to show over entry to her Twitter, Fb Instagram accounts when she was investigated beneath Singapore’s Public Order Act for holding a four-person vigil towards the dying penalty. Police cited Han’s postings on her social media accounts, together with Twitter, as proof for launching the probe, which is ongoing.

Han has no plans to cease utilizing Twitter, however how she makes use of it could change as the foundations governing the platform face a radical shake-up beneath new proprietor Elon Musk.

Musk plans to scrap Twitter’s id authentication system as quickly as this week, providing the distinctive blue examine mark, as soon as reserved for verified high-profile customers, to anyone willing to pay $8 a month.

Whereas Han continues to be ready for the main points of the modifications to unfold, she is anxious concerning the prospect of web trolls impersonating her and sowing confusion amongst her followers.

“I assume I’m going to lose the blue tick sooner or later, however then it additionally appears – as the main points come out – that the blue tick verification factor is simply going to be accessible to whoever pays,” Han advised Al Jazeera.

Extra essentially, Han worries that Musk doesn’t perceive the duty that’s now on his shoulders.

“He’s a businessman who, simply from statement, has a considerably overinflated sense of how certified he’s to do issues,” she stated.

“He doesn’t appear certified or actually that educated about how communication and social media and tech platforms work, and the obligations that they’ve, which is sort of worrying.”

Han just isn’t the one one worrying.

Authorities in Singapore tightly management protest and political speech within the city-state [File: Edgar Su/Reuters]

Throughout Asia, activists, journalists, and Twitter customers plugged into human rights and social justice points are anxious about how the social media platform will change beneath the management of the world’s richest man.

Many reside in international locations the place freedom of speech is severely curtailed by authorities. For such customers, Twitter could be a important window to the skin world, a uncommon platform for open debate – usually from behind the veil of anonymity – or each.

For critics, the issues vary from questions on Musk’s ideological leanings and his business interests in countries like China to doubts about his understanding of the complexities of social media.

The Tesla founder, a self-described “free speech absolutist” who has accused Twitter of exhibiting left-wing bias, has pledged to reshape moderation insurance policies on the platform to encourage the airing and debate of a wider spectrum of views.

On Friday, Musk set in movement a radical restructuring of the corporate by firing about half of Twitter’s 7,500 workers, together with your entire human rights group, based on former authorized counsel Shannon Raj Singh.

Al Jazeera didn’t obtain a response to requests for remark despatched to the Twitter accounts of the corporate’s communications groups or its head of security and integrity, Yael Roth.

In international locations like Myanmar, the place Twitter has performed an essential position in sharing data since a military coup in 2021, Musk’s takeover has prompted anxiousness and concern.

Regardless of a authorities crackdown on social media and each home and international media, nameless accounts have continued to disseminate details about state-sponsored violence and anti-government protests.

Yadanar Maung, a spokesperson for Justice for Myanmar, an account with 165,000 followers, stated Twitter had already been failing to counter psychological warfare and misinformation shared by Myanmar’s army administration on social media.

Now, issues might take a flip for the more serious as moderation turns into much more sparse and government-linked accounts proliferate, Maung stated.

“We’re involved that modifications will make Twitter extra harmful for Myanmar customers who’re beneath menace from an illegitimate army junta, and that Twitter beneath Elon Musk might present higher house for the junta and its supporters to unfold disinformation and hate speech,” Maung advised Al Jazeera.

Tesla’s largest manufacturing facility is positioned in Shanghai, China [File: Aly Song/Reuters]

Activists are additionally anxious about how Musk, the chief government of Tesla, SpaceX and Neuralink, could possibly be influenced by China, the place he has main enterprise pursuits.

Tesla has established its largest manufacturing facility in Shanghai and earlier this 12 months opened a showroom in Xinjiang, the place Beijing has carried out a prolonged marketing campaign of repression towards the Uighurs and different ethnic minority Muslims, whilst main Western manufacturers publicly distanced themselves from the area.

“The fear is that if Elon Musk is doubtlessly corrupt or making an attempt to appease the Chinese language authorities, he shall be handing over information and he shall be giving the Chinese language authorities entry to information,” Vicky Xu, an Australia-based researcher and journalist who has documented her harassment by pro-Beijing accounts on social media, advised Al Jazeera.

“Twitter is such an essential platform for advocacy and dissent. With Elon Musk, even when he’s by no means going handy over any information to China, even when the Chinese language authorities was not capable of affect him, there’s nonetheless a psychological worry that lots of dissidents or activists really feel that this platform is simply not as free as earlier than and it’s not as neutral as earlier than or not as pro-democracy as earlier than.”

Whereas Twitter, like different Western social media platforms, is blocked in China, Beijing oversees a lot of state-sponsored “wolf warrior” accounts that undertaking its messaging and monitor the social media exercise of Chinese language dissidents residing overseas.

Many of those accounts additionally harass customers who publish about points deemed delicate to China, akin to Taiwan’s political standing or political repression in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet.

Sandra, a Hong Kong-based Chinese language-language Twitter account with greater than 47,000 followers, stated a priority for dissidents like her is the abuse of Twitter’s perform for reporting inappropriate content material by state-backed accounts and bots.

The Hong Kong democracy activist stated she was suspended from Twitter for six months in 2019 after being focused by pro-Beijing accounts for posting concerning the metropolis’s anti-government protests.

Sandra stated many Chinese language dissident accounts have confronted related points, with appeals taking months to achieve a decision.

It’s unclear if the state of affairs will worsen with fewer “guard rails” on the platform, she stated, whereas there may be additionally concern about whether or not Chinese language state media will proceed to be clearly labelled as such.

Sandra, who requested to stay nameless because of the sweeping crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong, stated she was nonetheless ready to see how the modifications would play out.

“I’ve not determined but,” she advised Al Jazeera.

Pravit Rojanaphruk
Veteran Thai journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk says many Thais are anxious about what’s going to occur to their private information after Musk’s takeover of Twitter [File: AP Photo]

In Thailand, Twitter is without doubt one of the few areas the place residents can benefit from anonymity to debate the way forward for the monarchy with out risking jail beneath the nation’s powerful lèse-majesté legal guidelines.

Pravit Rojanaphruk, an award-winning journalist who was beforehand charged with sedition for criticising the army authorities, stated many Thais are anxious about what’s going to occur to their private information and whether or not military-backed accounts will proliferate.

“Twitter is without doubt one of the two premier or hottest social media apps with regards to political dialogue. It’s the least censored in Thailand, even in comparison with Fb. Lots of the Thai customers are literally utilizing a nom de plume,” Pravit advised Al Jazeera.

“They aren’t utilizing an actual id with regards to delicate discussions concerning the monarchy, and we don’t know [how] Elon Musk goes to interpret this debate about utilizing nameless accounts.”

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