The saga of Elon Musk’s attempt to capture Twitter began, appropriately, on Twitter. Late March, Musk wrote on Twitter, “Since Twitter operates as a public town, failure to adhere to the rules of democracy hinders democracy. What should they do?”
Now we know Musk’s answer. Shortly after his tweet, the SEC reservation revealed that he had quietly become a major shareholder on Twitter. And on Wednesday, he sent a letter to the chairman of the Twitter board announcing that he wanted to buy the company for about $ 43 billion and keep it a secret. His goal, he wrote, is to help Twitter realize “it could be a free-talking platform in the world.”
Musk did not understand the meaning of free speech to him, but his actions seemed to loosen the principles of Twitter. Speaking to them at this year’s TED conference on Thursday, he confirmed his doubts. Asked if Musk’s Twitter account would ban anything, he replied, “I think Twitter or any forum complies with the laws of the country in which it operates. There are restrictions on free speech in the US, and of course Twitter should follow this.”
If this is Musk’s plan, it’s bad news. The First Amendment allows all kinds of bad language that most people do not want to see in their diet. Allowing legal discourse could mean opening up to Twitter to expose racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, publicity violence, and malpractice. Like this no in essence, his comments are still bad news: It means he has almost always had a serious thought about free speech before attempting to buy Twitter in the name of free speech.
Musk is in a tight spot, however, when he calls Twitter a public place. Not everyone thinks so. At my dinner, that statement made me laugh. Some people have also said that Twitter is a private company, not a government, and can do what it wants. Some also said that Twitter could not be a public place because most people do not use it. Twitter is much smaller than any other social networking site. It has about 200 million users every day worldwide and about 37 million in the US. Compare this with the nearly 2 billion Facebook and YouTube users and over one billion TikTok. Also Twitter does not have a market type that is dominated by the state of the big tech giants. The current Meta market is about $ 575 billion – the biggest fall since last year, when it removed $ 1 trillion, but inaccessible even to the richest person in the world. TikTok parent company valued at $ 250 billion. Next to those numbers, Twitter looks like a small potato.
And yet Musk is on something. The importance of a platform to democracy does not depend on its size or popularity. Twitter may not be the largest social networking site, but, in the US, it is the most important political platform. (This is probably not true all over the world. The US is still the largest Twitter market.) That is where journalists, politicians, academics, and other “elite” spend most of their time. This is where they find the stories and discussions they take. In fact, it is when Musk, the richest man in the world, decides to express his views. If you want to impress people, you are not posting on Facebook. You tweet.