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The world’s richest man, Elon Musk, has just bought Twitter. What is he going to do with it now?
Musk made his name with Tesla electric cars and his own personal space race. Now he dominates the discussion on the very platform he just bought, while left and right trying to predict the future of the most influential social media.
Twitter is not important because of numbers. It has “more than 217 million daily users,” according to The New York Times. That’s less than 10% of Facebook’s user base. But it beats far beyond its weight because of who these users are. The core of the site consists of journalists, activists, politicians and celebrities from all fields.
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Any major national issue is being fought or spun on Twitter. When Times columnist and editor Bari Weiss left the newspaper, she skewed her social media addiction. “Twitter has become its ultimate editor,” she said.
It’s not just the Times, it’s the whole old news industry. And since Twitter continued to censor prominent conservative voices, the site has become more and more a left-wing echo chamber.
Now that was about to change. So here are nine questions for Musk as he takes on a task that Hercules would have found intimidating:
Will Trump return ?: This is the elephant in the room. When Twitter and nine other Big Tech platforms banned Trump, they interfered in his ability to communicate with the press and his followers. Trump was unique as a world leader. Twitter confirmed the status of six dictators, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who has been credibly accused of genocide in Ukraine. Bringing back the leader of the Republican Party sends a message to both friend and foe that things are changing. (Yes, Trump says he will not return. We’ll see.)
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2. How will Musk handle angry left-wing employees ?: Twitter does not censor conservatives just because of the rules. It does so because the enforcers of these rules overwhelmingly support the left. Perhaps some of the most radical will quit. But others may stay just to oppose him. Musk needs to weed out the worst as fast as he can.
3. How does Musk handle Washington ?: Left and right are divided on freedom of speech as night and day. The left wants to censor conservatives and conservatives do not want to be censored. Democrats are still nominally responsible in DC (until the election). How should he work with those who already want to regulate him? Former President Obama has made it clear that he wants more censorship, not less. He is far from alone.
4. What about so-called misinformation and misinformation ?: One of the biggest frauds in today’s political debate is the idea of misinformation and misinformation. All the top platforms call posts to violate obscure and often outright false interpretations of news events. They use this to silence discussions about everything the left does not like – the Hunter Biden laptop, the Wuhan laboratory leak and the media’s false allegations of Russian secret cooperation. How will Musk settle this violation of free speech?
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5. What about foreign powers ?: Many of the social media have restricted Russian propaganda business. Twitter has limited access to Russian content while “engaged in armed conflict.” But what about China, where Musk has serious business relations? The Chinese government is committing genocide against Uighur Muslims and has unlimited access to Twitter to lie about it.
6. What about foreign regulation? American leftists have a new angle to regulate the Internet – let Europe do it. The European Union has just made a preliminary agreement on the Digital Services Act, which aims to make what is illegal offline, illegal online. Except that Europe does not really believe in freedom of expression. It reflects their laws. The law is intended to apply to companies with 45 million months of European users. So it can affect many big players. The twice-failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called on the EU to adopt it in order to “strengthen global democracy before it is too late.”
7. How Twitter confirms everyone without destroying anonymity: Musk said he supports “authentication of all people.” Twitter users who are tired of the power of bots or automated accounts might want to welcome this. But how does he do it without destroying the ability to remain anonymous, something even the founding fathers valued?
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Will Musk stop being … Musk? Musk is known for trolling people on Twitter, making jokes and behaving as if it were Twitter before the censors took over. A few days before completing the purchase, he tweeted one picture of a fat Bill Gates in a blue shirt next to the new pregnant man’s emoji, also in a blue shirt. Will the new Twitter CEO still behave like a typical Twitter user? Or will he become a depressing company? (Narrator: He will not change.)
9. Will former CEO Jack Dorsey return? Dorsey was not happy with his exit from the firm, and he has openly cracked down on the board. Now this: “Elon is the unique solution I trust. I trust his mission to expand the light of consciousness.” It’s not a job application, but it’s close. Dorsey may also have enough status with Twitter employees to quell any rebellion. Do not be surprised if he is part of the new management team.
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