Elon Musk has decided to diversify its portfolio by buying Twitter for $ 44 billion. Some believe, for obvious party political reasons, this as a gain for freedom of speech. But the reality is that Musk buys Twitter is doing nothing to promote free speech. What’s more, this purchase works effectively in contrast to the very marketplace of ideas that the speech protection of the first amendment was intended to promote.
Republicans have been confused since initial rumors that Musk bought Twitter began to swirl. Their hope is that the eccentric tech billionaire will reinstate a certain real estate billionaire and former president on the social media platform and topple prohibit imposed on him after his instigation of an uprising that was to topple the results of the 2020 election. Although this reinstatement is now quite likely to happen, it does not really promote freedom of speech in any meaningful way.
Freedom of expression, especially in the context of the first amendment, has always been about limiting what the government can do when it comes to airing our opinions. The idea was that removing the government from the possible regulation of its citizens’ speech would result in a robust marketplace of ideas. Republicans who call on the government to regulate people like Twitter and Facebook by demanding that they reinstate displaced persons like Trump are both a violation of the spirit and letter of the law as far as the First Amendment is concerned. These private companies have the right under the first amendment to choose to remove speech and speakers that they find offensive.
Furthermore, the concept of free speech has never been about preventing societal reactions from the things people say. If that were the case, the idea marketplace would not be free, as it would mean that the government would limit our ability to vehemently reject ideas we find disgusting. “Cancel culture,” as Republicans call it, is nothing more than a function of a free marketplace of ideas in which people demand consequences for speech and behavior they find offensive. Just as we allow the public in a free market to drive a provider of sloppy goods into bankruptcy, we must also allow people in a free marketplace of ideas to expel and condemn those with whom they strongly disagree.
Elon Musk, who puts Trump back on Twitter after buying it, is actually just him throwing money at the company for overriding their previous decision, a decision most Americans agree with. The marketplace of ideas is not better protected by Musk, it is bought out of him. Add to that the fact that Musk, who is already a billionaire, does not need Twitter to make money or grow in value. The result is that we can expect him to run Twitter, not in accordance with people’s requirements, but in a way that serves his own personal interests.
That’s why conservatives are cheering on Musk. He promises to give them what the free marketplace of ideas does not want. Just as the other would be substitutes for the established social media giants, such as Parlor or Gettr, Trump’s Truth Social has been an unconditional failure. The market spoke clearly, and the silent cemetery that these platforms have become is proof that the public wants nothing to do with them.
The only real winner here, quite ironically, is the Democrats. Both conservative and liberal experts would like to admit that Donald Trump would most likely have secured another term if he just stopped tweeting. Putting Trump back on Twitter will admittedly result in his frequent dominance of our media coverage, but in doing so, it will serve as a regular reminder to the public as to why they teased him the first time. Trump, who once again spreads his lies and bigotry over Twitter from now until November, will only hurt both him and his party’s choices. It’s a blessing in disguise for the Democrats to welcome, not fight.
Nicholas Creel is an Assistant Professor of Business Law at Georgia College and State University.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author.