Keep Your Hands off Twitter, Elon Musk!

Twitter is too important in forming opinions for the richest man in the world to buy the platform. History shows the damage caused by media owners with a political agenda.

He’s full of the best intentions. That’s what he claims anyway. Tesla boss Elon Musk wants to enable more freedom of speech in social media. He wants to give users more control over what they read and post. So, would it be good if Musk buys the short-message service, Twitter? No, no, and once again, no.

Whether you like it or not, Twitter has become an important platform that people use worldwide to stay informed. Heads of government, managers and 200 million other users use it to exchange ideas. It’s bad when someone who is pursuing economic interests outside the industry buys an influential media source.

There are many examples of this in the classic world of media before social media. When someone such as Jeff Bezos propels Amazon into the largest online retailer using brute force, he should not be able to control the prestigious Washington Post. The same applies to arms industrialists who bought French newspapers.

Musk has already proved that he is also pursuing business in media — on Twitter of all places. In 2018, he tweeted that he wanted to take electronic car manufacturer Tesla off the stock market. He falsely claimed that he had the money to do this. The Securities and Exchange Commission fined him $1 million. Despite an agreement not to do so, he tweeted about Tesla again in a way that the SEC saw as a violation of the deal. Will the richest man in the world resist the temptation to abuse Twitter for his other businesses if it belongs to him entirely?

The world has also had bad experience with media owners who, like Musk, pursue a political agenda. Silvio Berlusconi, former Italian prime minister and owner of multiple TV networks, threw Italy into years of stagnation. Rupert Murdoch used his British newspapers to agitate against the European Union and thus laid the groundwork for Brexit. Americans had their own media czars, such as William Randolph Hearst. Hearst used his papers in organized campaigns to violently break labor strikes. He suggested that his editors refer to President Franklin D. Roosevelt as Stalin.

Is Musk’s case different because his political agenda seems to revolve around free speech? Free speech, that sounds just super. But what does Musk mean by that exactly? Social media is flooded with fake news that often incites against pandemic measures and immigrants and drives votes toward right-leaning populists. Under public pressure, Twitter, and Facebook and company have begun to delete false and inflammatory posts. Without going into detail, Musk criticized Twitter for excessive interference with free speech.

Fake news spreader Donald Trump tweeted for a week that he had been cheated out of his reelection. In January 2021, a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. Twitter banned Trump after countless previous warnings. A certain Musk tweeted just three days later: “A lot of people are going to be super unhappy with West Coast high tech as the de facto arbiter of free speech.” Musk risks being accused of confusing free speech with the lies that have dangerously divided American society.

Maybe his bid is just one of the smokescreens that Musk loves so much. Maybe he doesn’t want to buy Twitter at all, but wishes instead to drive up the share price to sell his investment at a profit after he previously drew attention by tweeting about such things as whether Twitter was dying. That may become an issue for the SEC.

However, if he’s being serious about the purchase, the answer is simple. The platform is too important to fall into the hands of a dubious billionaire. Keep your hands off Twitter, Musk!

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About Michael Stehle 96 Articles
I am a graduate of the University of Maryland with a BA in Linguistics and Germanic Studies. I have a love for language and I find translation to be both an engaging activity as well as an important process for connecting the world.

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