Elon Musk and the first amendment? Twitter takeover a good thing?
I'll keep it simple. Our constitution guarantees you can pull up a soap box, go to any street corner and say whatever the f-ck you want. Well, not exactly, you can't defame someone, cause a riot, yell fire in a theater (unless it's ....you get the picture").
Our first amendment sets us apart from much of the world. We're darn lucky for it. Yep, it creates a lot of headaches...but those are worth the price. Someone can't walk up to you and tell you to shut up because they disagree with your viewpoint? Unless you're on social media where the moderator can shut you up in perpetuity. Who elected the moderators at the social media giants? Whatever their views (positive or negative) media Oligopoly's that suppress folks they disagree with aren't consistent with the 1st Amendment?
Elon Musk Wants to Buy Twitter
If his $43 billion bid wins, what would he do about free speech and political censorship?
By The Editorial BoardFollow
April 14, 2022 6:40 pm ET
Well, this could be entertaining. In a week Elon Musk has moved from holding a 9.2% stake in Twitter with a seat on the board to offering to buy out the social-media site for $43 billion cash. The offer is causing a meltdown in progressive circles that don’t appreciate Mr. Musk as much on free speech as they do when he’s building electric cars.
“I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy,” Mr. Musk wrote in announcing his bid. “I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form.” He is offering $54.20 a share. Before his stake went public, the stock was trading near $39. Twitter lost $221 million in 2021 and $1.1 billion in 2020, and it might miss its target for user growth. Many shareholders will want to take Mr. Musk’s money and run.
This is a business gamble for Mr. Musk. But at the Ted2022 conference on Thursday in Vancouver, Canada, he said: “This isn’t a way to make money. My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization. I don’t care about the economics at all.”
We doubt that last claim, though he seems to be serious about free speech. And he may have turned to a buyout offer when he realized that he couldn’t achieve what he wanted with a single board seat in a company whose employees seem not to like him.
“How are we going to reconcile this decision with our values?” one employee asked on an internal Slack messaging channel, per the Washington Post. “We know that he has caused harm to workers, the trans community, women, and others with less power in the world.” The fiduciary duties of being a board member also might have been stifling.
But it’s an open question what he has in mind when he says “free speech.” The First Amendment protects pornography, jihadist propaganda, harassing insults and more from government prohibition. But private sites can regulate speech under current law, and drawing lines isn’t always straightforward. Calls to violence are generally banned on Facebook, and most users are glad they are.
Twitter has stoked discord because some of its boneheaded calls indicate that its staff has taken sides in America’s political and cultural wars. During the 2020 presidential race the site blocked the New York Post’s reporting on Hunter Biden’s wayward laptop.
Did nobody with stature in the building argue that it would backfire to prohibit a reputable newspaper’s article about the son of the Democratic presidential nominee? Groupthink may be part of the problem, due to a monoculture in Twitter’s San Francisco office. If Mr. Musk does succeed in his bid, perhaps he’d try to break the Bay Area culture of progressive conformity by moving Twitter to Texas.
Twitter’s board will probably fight Mr. Musk’s offer, and the reaction on the political left has been fear and loathing. That’s all the more reason to welcome it. Some conservatives want to regulate the internet giants, giving the Federal Trade Commission power to enforce an impossible standard of “neutrality.” This would lead to even more political discord.
Mr. Musk’s attempt at a market solution is far more promising. He could make a great social contribution if his takeover succeeds and he can find the right balance between free speech and sensible moderation.