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Elon Musk’s possible Twitter takeover raises free speech questions and opportunities


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The world’s richest man took to Twitter last month to slam the social media platform, loved and hated by journalists and news junkies alike, for failing to meet freedom standards. expression and threatening democracy.

“Given that Twitter serves as a de facto public square, failure to uphold the principles of free speech fundamentally undermines democracy,” Elon Musk tweeted to his 81.7 million followers on March 26. “What should be done ?”

The Tesla CEO put his billions where he was, buying more than 9% of the company’s stock. On Thursday, he went all the way with an audacious offer to buy Twitter and take it private for around $43 billion.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk smiles during a news conference after the first launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper and icon file photo Twitter app.
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File/REUTERS/Joe Skipper)

The reaction was predictable: more left-wing voices worried about the eccentric billionaire’s free-speech absolutism and the Wild West approach he could bring to the table, while many right-wing voices finally rejoiced in the promise of unfettered speech.

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But what would a Musk takeover look like? What would he do?

Biotech entrepreneur and author of “Woke, Inc.” Vivek Ramaswamy predicted the sale wouldn’t happen, which he said would be a bad long-term move for the company.

“I think it will make the business less valuable,” he told Fox News Digital. “It will make the country a more deprived democracy, but I think that if Elon Musk succeeds, it will be an unambiguous victory for American democracy and capitalism, and that’s why I encourage him.”

Among the changes he would make to free speech if he were in charge, Ramaswamy said, would simply be to empower users more and let them determine what is or is not “speech.” of hate”, to adjust their own parameters and to effectively decentralize the platform. so as not to be susceptible to being “captured by the government”. In other words, Congress couldn’t drag ten million users before a committee and demand that they change their habits.

“The answer to bad speech is not less speech, it’s more speech,” he said. “Let users decide what they want or don’t want to see.”

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Musk’s takeover attempt comes amid renewed interest in Washington, from both sides of the aisle, to rule Big Tech platforms, albeit for different reasons. Some Republicans like Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., have argued they are being overly censored and should have their Section 230 liability protections repealed, while many Democrats say the outlet provides platforms -forms for extremist rhetoric and does not do enough to curb so-called misinformation.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has offered to buy Twitter in a deal worth more than billion and take the social media company private.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has offered to buy Twitter in a deal worth more than $43 billion and take the social media company private.
(Reuters)

Former Google consultant Joe Toscano, who featured prominently in the Netflix documentary ‘The Social Dilemma’, thinks Musk’s potential takeover of Twitter would be good for free speech.

“He’s going to give people the tools they need to work in the modern world. Now someone might argue that the way Musk sees the world is more anarchic, but you know what, free speech requires a level of clearance for people to speak their mind, you know, and he’s pretty good at it,” Toscano told Fox News Digital.

“He’s very simple in a lot of ways,” Toscano continued. “He tells you exactly what he’s going to do and he’s going to do it often.”

Toscano thinks Musk’s involvement with Twitter would “create a unique challenge” for the company, as all social media platforms need to start thinking seriously about “how much of a censorship platform are they going to be compared to, say, a real platform as they claim to be, which ultimately allows this freedom of expression” to all users.

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“I think Musk could provide some unique insights on how to rethink this,” Toscano said. “He’s the most popular person on their platform saying, ‘Hey, I have a lot of ideas on how this could be improved, let me buy it, and I’ll drive it.'”

Ruben Ugarte, who uses data as a global business adviser, said he would reject Musk’s offer if he served on the board because of Musk’s involvement in other companies. Still, he said Musk’s influence could propel discussion on Twitter about how to better serve users.

“I think that will move the conversation forward,” he said. “I imagine there’s a division even within the company as to whether to sell or not, whether to go private or not, whether to remove ads or not, so that I can see these things happening internally already.”

Ugarte said he could see Musk doing several things if he takes over, such as bringing back banned figures like former President Trump.

“Moderation is hard for tech platforms, but it’s going to be something very visible and probably not very hard to do, which will bring some of those users back,” he said. “In the long run, it looks like his idea of ​​removing ads, going private, and moving to a subscription model might help this idea of ​​free speech. His basic argument is that if pressing advertisers, you can’t promote certain types of threads, so if you remove that, if you make users pay directly for the platform, a big if, then in theory you get and have all kinds of discussions on the platform.

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Toscano, a former Google consultant who co-founded the Better Ethics and Consumer Outcomes Network, was also skeptical that Twitter’s board would accept Musk’s offer, but believes it should seriously consider it.

“I think this is the best offer Twitter has had in a long time,” Toscano said. “You know, Twitter hasn’t innovated as much, as anyone can see, in the last 15 years, and they need someone to shake it up. I mean, if you pass 15, and you can’t even do an edit button, something is wrong.”

In addition to permanently banning Trump last year, Twitter banned the accounts of right-wing and far-right figures like Alex Jones, Roger Stone and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.

He notoriously locked the New York Post out of his account in 2020 for reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop, which was later authenticated, and blocked an article about it from being shared. He continues to stand up to right-wing criticism for police language on coronavirus mitigations, transgender and other burning issues; A famous recent example is the suspension of Babylon Bee for awarding transgender Biden administration official Dr. Rachel Levine the satirical site’s “Man of the Year” for 2022.

District Media Group President Beverly Hallberg said the “free speech overhaul” promised by Musk was desperately needed.

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“The irony is that the same people who said Twitter has the right to do whatever it wants because it’s a private company – including conservative censorship – are now saying it’s a threat to the democracy,” she told Fox News Digital. “It can’t be both, and it shows that the real reason many private companies ‘backed’ was because Twitter was censoring speech they didn’t like.”

“If Twitter users don’t like what he brought to the table, they can take their business elsewhere,” she added. “That’s the beauty of the free market.”

Indeed, alternatives to Big Tech giants like Parler and Rumble have emerged in recent years, but the big companies still retain their enormous influence. Twitter is still where news breaks and major personalities make announcements, proclamations, and headaches for themselves.

Twitter said Thursday that the board had received the letter and was considering its options and the best interests of its shareholders. Musk’s candid letter to Chairman of the Board, Bret Taylor, ended with him saying, “Twitter has tremendous potential. I’m going to unlock it.”

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But whether he can do it does not depend on him.


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