Musk buys Twitter; now what?

(Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Elon Musk has purchased Twitter for $44 billion. What on earth does that mean? As someone who has barely used Twitter at all, it’s impossible for me to say. What I can say is that I think Musk is a bit of a nutjob — undeniably brilliant, intriguing, brash. And rich, filthy rich. With a net worth of an estimated $219 billion (Forbes), he’s the richest man in the world.

He is the CEO and product architect of Tesla and founder, CEO, and chief engineer at SpaceX, to name his two best-known ventures. And now that he’s purchased Twitter, he intends to take it private. And do what?

In a press release Musk explained:

Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.

I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spambots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential — I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.

And according to Business Insider:

… his stated goal with Twitter is to foster a “public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive” — goals he intends to accomplish by tossing the platform’s moderation guidelines, open-sourcing its moderation and suggestion algorithms, and removing spambots.

I find the whole thing very disquieting. It seems if you have enough money, you can build or buy anything — cars, space ships, cars in space, or a massive chunk of the internet. And now that Twitter is his toy, what will he do with it? What’s his idea of “free speech” and “authenticating all humans”? Is he going to open Twitter up again to all comers, making it “broadly inclusive”? Will he restore access for the banned ex-president who, along with his followers, has poisoned so many minds via social media? Will he restore access for those who speak against science, climate change, vaccines, and masks? Will he allow conspiracy theories to fly unchecked?

Maybe Musk has the money and the intent to make or remake Twitter into a legitimate public forum where a free exchange of ideas can take place. Or maybe his idea of free speech is the fallacy of giving equal time to opposing ideas that are not, in fact, equal, e.g., equal time to democracy and fascism, equal time to both science and science deniers, equal time to both legitimate election results and conspiracy theories. It’s called “false equivalence,” and it’s a common tactic (or mistake) on both social media and mainstream media.

Great wealth has and does put great power in the hands of the few … or the one.

And the more it happens, the more concerned I become.

22 thoughts on “Musk buys Twitter; now what?

  1. There is a good reason why the world’s oldest democracy (us) is a representative democracy. The ordinary citizen is focused on the common issues of life like earning a living and raising a family, so it makes sense to delegate government to a few people selected for their wisdom and talent. The rise of social media however threatens to turn that model on its head. It’s like a giant message board where anything goes, especially on Twitter and Facebook. It has changed and is changing the nature of our politics. It encourages political and social extremists. Fasten you seat belts people, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

  2. I rarely use Twitter and never really understood its appeal. I’m already hearing a number of people thinking of getting off the platform. Personally, I think I’ll delete the account I have there. No way I am going to support Mr. Nutcase.

        1. Frankly, I don’t know if Twitter has advertisers. If they have advertisers, I suspect they’ll lose some and gain others. Meantime, I’ve joined you in jumping off the platform. I lose nothing by doing so.

  3. Not a user as it has little interest except during storms to keep up with emergency info during hurricanes.
    The whole uproar thing is a bit amusing – sounds a little like a group of elementary boys in their secret treehouse complaining when mom says you have to let you little sister/girls in.
    Not sure why people are terrified of encountering differing views in any forum. Either too uncertain of their own views that they worry they can’t hold up their end of the conversation against someone of opposing views – they could just ignore it and walk away, agree to disagree and stile friends, or return to kindergarten years with names calling and character smears…guess that’s still a tactic of some.
    In any case it’ll be fun to watch all the character/adgenda/bias revealing melt downs.. Might just fade to obscurity like “My Space”…remember that one? Once the king, now forgotten by most.

    1. Flame wars and misinformation serve no one. Except those with ill intent. And too many people are too easily duped by false statements. How does one promote and support free speech without becoming a pawn of conspiracists? It’s a tightrope that even the most respected news sources walk every day. And I have no faith in Musk’s tightrope-walking abilities.

  4. A technocratic plutocracy anyone. Mix a little silicone libertarianism with some bastardized late stage capital, and get ready to throw in your chips.

    I was on twitter early, March 2007, and found it a great news source. But I’ve avoided it more and more since “gamergate” tactics became de rigueur there circa 2015/16. I miss it.

    1. Being stinkin’ rich is no guarantee that you’re smart or worthy of emulation. Or capable of leading or governing.
      When I canceled my Twitter account this morning, I was surprised to see I’d had it since 2006, the year Twitter started. Curiosity, I suppose. Originally I used it to get up-to-date local news and comment, but I drifted away from that at some point. In recent years it’s only been a place to auto-post my PiedType posts. Bottom line, I don’t need Twitter and it doesn’t need me. It would be sweet if Twitter starts hemorrhaging users …

  5. Excellent, thoughtful, comprehensive post. I agree with you across-the-board. Although, I’m in favor of eliminating the spam bots. I’d love to see Word Press also eliminate the bots. Maybe it’s just me, but have you looked at your followers lately? I’m sure that many of mine are not real. I’m not going to single out any, but no normal human would create some of the account names I’ve noticed. And the ones that are blatantly trying to sell me accessories for an RV? Thank goodness for akismet spam filter.

    1. Nobody wants spam bots anywhere. I haven’t looked closely at follower names, but I used to get a lot of spam “Likes.” And a look at what Akismet has caught is absolutely stomach-turning.

      I just looked at my followers list and it looks much like the “Likes” used to look — a lot of commercial and business names, advertisers.

  6. I wish Mr. Musk does well with Twitter and open the freedom of speech. Since he is a businessman I see very less chance that he will do that, instead he will use it for his own benefits.

... and that's my two cents