April 15, 2022

Elon Musk and Twitter

“Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk took aim at Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) with a $43 billion cash takeover offer on Thursday, with the Tesla CEO saying the social media company needs to be taken private to grow and become a platform for free speech.” Reuters

Here’s our recent coverage of Musk and Twitter. The Flip Side

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From the Left

The left generally opposes relaxing the content moderation policies on Twitter, arguing that doing so would drive away users.

The real public square has always been moderated. Public-nuisance laws and noise ordinances have long placed restrictions on the time, place, and manner of expression protected by the First Amendment. Try to get a group of 100 ideological allies together to follow someone around a public park in the center of town shrieking at them, and see how that plays out…

“Musk is correct that social-media companies have incredible power and no accountability. Opaque moderation decisions and reactive ad hoc policies have undermined the public trust; playing whack-a-mole with rumors or responding to propaganda with fact-checks seems to have led to more animus and entrenchment, not less. But if you think that, by taking the ‘public square’ private and consolidating control even further, Musk will somehow uphold free expression and protect democracy, you will be disappointed.”

Renée DiResta, The Atlantic

“Millions of people use and actively depend on Twitter. Journalists rely on it for sources and information sharing, and private individuals have used it to shine a light on issues that otherwise might not have reached mainstream consciousness. Twitter was a pivotal platform for the dissemination of information during the Arab Spring uprising, for the #MeToo movement and for Black Lives Matter. In recent weeks, it has been a hub of information and images on the war in Ukraine. What does it mean when a billionaire can almost single-handedly swoop in and eat up this sort of communications platform?”

Christine Emba, Washington Post

“You need some amount of what is disparagingly called ‘cancel culture’ for free speech to thrive. It's a delicate balancing act, as the current social media behemoths have learned. Trolling is profitable, but only to a point. If trolling gets so out of control that normal people start to feel there's no value in using the service, they'll give up on it. It's already hurting Facebook's ability to maintain younger users who see the service as mainly existing for right-wing grandpa…

“It's why all the Twitter knock-offs catering to people banned from Twitter, from Donald Trump's Truth Social to Gab and Parler, barely attract any users. No one wants to be on a service that's utterly dominated by trolls — not even the trolls. The hope of having interactions with smart and decent people is what keeps a social media network alive…

“Right now, Twitter survives because it's not entirely a garbage dump… But if that changes and the amount of sewage people have to swim through in order to talk to other decent human beings gets unmanageable, they'll probably start leaving. Considering how much Twitter already flattens discourse and rewards dumb or bad behavior, it may not be a bad thing if the non-troll users give up on it entirely.”

Amanda Marcotte, Salon

Some argue, “I’m guessing this latest news is arousing special horror because the current version of Twitter is the professional journalist’s idea of Utopia: a place where Donald Trump doesn’t exist, everyone with unorthodox thoughts is warning-labeled (‘age-restricted’ content seems to be a popular recent scam), and the Current Thing is constantly hyped to the moronic max…

“My blue-checked friends in media worked very hard to create this thriving intellectual paradise, so of course they’re devastated to imagine that a single rich person could even try to walk in and upend the project. Couldn’t Musk just leave Twitter in the hands of responsible, speech-protecting shareholders like Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal?”

Matt Taibbi, TK News

From the Right

The right supports relaxing the content moderation policies on Twitter, arguing that current policies unfairly target conservatives.

The right supports relaxing the content moderation policies on Twitter, arguing that current policies unfairly target conservatives.

“The Left knows what’s at stake here. It understands that if Musk reforms Twitter and changes its vague and biased policies, it will lose a lot of the leverage it enjoys. Ideally, it would no longer be able to kick the Babylon Bee off the platform for pointing out that biological sex exists. It wouldn’t be able to squash ‘COVID-19 misinformation’ or prevent a damning news story about President Joe Biden and his son from being shared. On Twitter, at least, the Left’s ability to control the conversation and who gets to participate in it would fall apart…

“Musk understands that, too. Though we can’t be sure what his intentions for the platform are or whether he would turn it into something less hostile toward conservative thought, he has at least made it clear that he sees Twitter as a ‘de facto public town square’ that must abide by ‘free speech principles.’ That means things will have to change. Anyone who values free speech and open debate should hope he succeeds.”

Kaylee McGhee White, Washington Examiner

“There is something indisputably delightful about the way that Musk freaks out elite progressives, and the way that his full-throated endorsement of free speech absolutely terrifies them. They have grown used to having the power to shut down voices that offend or bother them…

“For a long time, Twitter’s criteria for acceptable discourse, and what can trigger an account suspension or termination, have seemed vague, arbitrary, ever-shifting, and much more heavy-handed on the right side of the spectrum than on the left… A Musk-run Twitter would be different — and, at least in this area, almost certainly better.”

Jim Geraghty, National Review

Twitter has been controlled by billionaires for years already. So has Facebook, for that matter, and Google/Alphabet, and Yahoo before that. How about the Washington Post, which got acquired by superbillionaire Jeff Bezos, including all of its news reporting functions? Furthermore, the social-media billionaires spent the last few years actively impeding free speech and news reporting rather than encouraging free and open debate. Where was all the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth over that, and all of the apocalyptic nonsense of the last few hours?…

“It’s not unfair to ask what the impact of having the world’s richest man take full control of a social media outlet with Twitter’s reach. It’s also not unfair to ask what the impact has been of Jeff Bezos acquiring the Washington Post, Carlos Slim taking a big chunk of the New York Times, or the M&A of Hollywood studios, acquisitions by Viacom, Comcast, and so on…

“In terms of real impact on reporting, Musk’s buyout of Twitter would pale in comparison to real media consolidation over the last couple of decades. And yet the journalists that operate in that sphere barely comment on those concerns while treating Musk as a ‘movie supervillain’ [per Axios].”

Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

Some posit that “If Musk goes full libertarian on content moderation, he’ll end up with something that’s a cross between Gab and an anti-vaxxer bulletin board. If instead he tweaks the content moderation rules only slightly, he’ll end up with something that’s not really meaningfully different from Dorsey-era Twitter. My guess is that both sides will end up enraged at the final product, lefties because the platform is modestly more tolerant of right-wing populist views and righties because the platform is only modestly more tolerant of right-wing populist views.”

Allahpundit, Hot Air

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