Elon Musk has recently taken to branding himself as a champion of free speech on social media. It’s also given him the opportunity to tweak the noses of some of his competitors, as well as politicians and the social media overlords. But he seemed to take it to another level yesterday after observing the Twitter Gods continuing to ban users or flag “dangerous content” in the form of any opinions not endorsed by the far left. Musk correctly identified Twitter as a “de facto public town square” in the 21st century and noted that the failure to adhere to basic free speech principles “fundamentally undermines democracy.” He then tossed a digital Molotov cocktail into the discussion by musing as to whether it’s time for a new social media platform to take its place. (Fox Business)
Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk wondered aloud on Twitter whether another platform is needed, causing his millions of followers to call for him to buy the social media giant.
“Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy,” Musk tweeted Saturday. “What should be done?”
In a follow-up post, Musk asked, “Is a new platform needed?”
Is a new platform needed?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 26, 2022
The response to Musk’s suggestion was immediate and enthusiastic. Followers ranging from Ron DeSantis’ press secretary to popular conservative radio hosts were urging him on, though most suggested that he should just buy Twitter and fix it rather than building a new platform from scratch.
It’s probably not a crazy idea and it could be well within the limits of Musk’s wealth to buy out the platform. He’s been known to throw around money extravagantly in the past and he generally makes good on even some of his wilder sounding promises, no matter the cost. (I have a flamethrower sitting in my home office courtesy of Mr. Musk, courtesy of a proposal he tossed out one night on Twitter while he had allegedly been imbibing a bit of the wacky tobaccy.)
In terms of bringing about fewer restrictions on free speech, having someone like Musk buy out Twitter would be far preferable to having him try to build a competing platform from scratch. That’s far easier said than done, as many hopeful startups, including one from Donald Trump can attest to. And even if he could manage the feat it would take years. But if he were to buy Twitter he could simply go through and clean house of all the liberal activists, change the operating policies and remind all of his new workers than any reported instances of squelching speech would see them heading to the parking lot with a cardboard box full of their office decorations on the same day.
But we’re probably getting ahead of ourselves here. Musk hasn’t said that he definitely will build a new platform, to say nothing of buying Twitter. He’s only suggested it so far. And the reality is that Twitter has really never been a big moneymaker. The company has only shown a net positive income in two years since it started, and those were slim profits. Musk is a capitalist and he’s in business to make money. And besides, he might be too busy battling Vladimir Putin in single combat or hunting the Chinese space station.
It would be something truly spectacular if he did it, though, wouldn’t it? Just imagine the frustration of outlets like CNN and MSNBC when they realized that there was no longer an unpaid guard dog preventing large swaths of society from seeing “unapproved opinions” or allowing users to point out their own shortcomings in providing unbiased coverage. The gnashing of teeth and rending of garments would be glorious to behold. We can always dream.
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