The Twitter board of directors has agreed on terms to sell the company to the world’s richest man, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. After initially rejecting Musk’s April 14th offer to buy the company, the board reconsidered, and accepted Musk’s offer of over 44 billion, or $54.20 per share, on April 25th.
Musk stated publicly that he believes in free speech; and he believes that for Twitter to make the changes necessary to become a true free speech platform, the company must be taken private. After the deal was officially agreed upon, Musk issued the following statement: “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated. I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential—I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”
Less censorship, open source algorithms, and cracking down on spam bots all seem like benign and worthwhile improvements to the Twitter experience. Mr. Musk added later, on Twitter, “For Twitter to deserve public trust, it must be politically neutral, which effectively means upsetting the far right and the far left equally.” It is hard to imagine a more bipartisan mission statement than what the world’s richest man has put forth publicly throughout the entire takeover process, but that has not stopped partisans on the political Right from wildly overreacting, or partisans on the Left from reacting with a combination of fear and rage. MSNBC’s Joy Reid called Musk a racist who wants to turn Twitter into “80s South Africa”, and Tucker Carlson, of Fox News fame, was so optimistic about the prospect of a Musk-led social media platform, that he returned to Twitter after years of near-inactivity. Again, aside from a handful of common sense reforms, there is no evidence that Elon Musk plans to drastically change the Twitter experience.
The award for the most unhinged Musk/Twitter take belongs to fellow billionaire, CEO of Amazon, and owner of the Washington Post, Jeff Bezos, who tweeted “Interesting Question. Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of influence over the town square?” referring to the fact that Tesla purchases electric car batteries from Chinese companies. Bezos later clarified that he does not believe that the Chinese government will influence Musk’s decision making; but the lack of self-awareness from the owner of one of the nation’s most reliably left-wing, party line publications, goes to show how Mr. Bezos views his colleagues who are perceived as being on an opposing side of a political issue.
Twitter, whose employees sent 98% of their political donations to Democrats in 2020, has long been accused of targeting conservatives for censorship, but this narrative burst into the mainstream in October 2020, when the tech giant banned the nation’s oldest newspaper, The New York Post, and prevented users from sharing a factually accurate report on then-candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s maleficence. After President Biden’s victory in November 2020, the conservative group, the Media Research Center, conducted a poll of Biden voters that showed that over 45% of Biden supporters had not heard of the Hunter Biden laptop story and over 35% had not heard of the sexual assault allegations made against the president by Tara Reid. One in six Biden voters said that they would have reconsidered their vote if they had been made aware of these stories before the election, according to a Media Research Company poll.
Musk is, at the time of publication, still assembling financing to actually pay for this massive deal. At this moment we have little information on how Musk will govern Twitter, we have no idea if his proposed reforms will even come to fruition, but, more speech is an objective good.
A free and open Twitter that no longer meddles in elections would be a welcomed improvement to the national discourse. Who knows, we may even get an edit button.
Brady Leonard is a musician, political strategist, and podcaster based in Toledo, Ohio. The No Gimmicks Podcast airs Mondays and Wednesdays at 1pm EST, wherever podcasts are found. Follow him on Twitter @bradyleonard