Elon Musk, Twitter and Freedom of Expression

Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2020.


Photo:

Hannibal Hanschke / Associated Press

With his typical enthusiasm for viral high-jinks, Elon Musk once formally called himself Tesla‘s

“Technoking”, and now he might want to take a similar role on Twitter.

After a quick hate-love-business courtship that lasted two weeks, the social media site on Monday agreed to accept Mr. Musk’s $ 44 billion bid.

What a bet for Mr Musk, who claims he can unlock value on Twitter that its current management cannot. According to the Journal, the financing proposal he announced last week includes $ 21 billion in personal equity. That equates to about 10% of his net worth, according to Forbes estimates. As security for the debt, Mr Musk would also pledge about a third of his Tesla share. It is not every day that the richest man in the world makes a bet like this.

“The proposed transaction will provide a significant cash premium and we believe it is the best way forward for Twitter’s shareholders,” the company’s chairman said. Mr. Musk offered $ 54.20 per. shares. Before his share became public, Twitter traded close to $ 39. The company’s board first appeared to reject the deal, and it adopted a poison pill. Then Mr Musk announced funding and began calling major shareholders to make his pitch.

If Mr. Musk can find a more satisfying balance in terms of content moderation, he may be right in Twitter’s hidden value. The current management is correct that most ordinary social media users do not want a daily bath of Russian bots, jihadist propaganda, harmful harassment and so on. Ditto for advertisers, who represent about 90% of the company’s revenue. Dog Silicon Valley‘s

Technological masters have decided that they will be judges of political issues such as climate change and the origins of Covid.

Pushing the moderator selector back several notches can promote wider engagement, even if you expect progressives to scream. A start may be to break what looks like a monoculture at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters. Maybe Mr. Musk will move the business to Texas, as he did with Tesla. How many Twitter encoders have ever been to a rodeo? Mr. Musk may also have functional changes in mind, such as longer tweets. On Monday, he mentioned “improving the product with new features” as well as “authenticating all people.”

The exaggeration around Mr. Musk’s Twitter entry has been curious, funny and sometimes both. Mr. Musk “is increasingly behaving like a movie supervillain,” said one Axios writer. A former CEO of the social networking site Reddit called for government regulation “to prevent rich people from controlling our communication channels.” That line was published in an op-ed on the Washington Post, which is owned by the well-known poor man Jeff Bezos.

“I hope even my worst critics stay on Twitter,” Mr. Musk tweeted Monday, “because that’s what free speech means.” Where is that supervillain of his. Mr. Musk at a conference this month seemed to be considering allowing any tweet that is legal. Last week, he sounded more modest. “A social media platform’s policies are good,” he tweeted“if the most extreme 10% left and right are equally dissatisfied.”

What does this mean in practice? Is Mr Musk aware that he is entering a goat’s nest? Will his vision work? Who knows. But it will be fascinating to see Mr. Musk try to break Silicon Valley’s culture of progressive conformity.

Review and prospects: What started as a parenting rights dispute has resulted in the Walt Disney Company losing special privileges in Florida – and acting as a wake-up call for other executives. Photos: Reuters / AP / Miami Herald Composite: Mark Kelly

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Published in print on April 26, 2022.

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