Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Elon Musk’s Twitter Gambit and What It Means to the “Clique in Power”

Posted by M. C. on April 28, 2022

Michael Rectenwald

Elon Musk’s bid to take over Twitter and turn it into a private company has apparently been successful. Now the real action begins. Musk’s buyout exposes the Big Digital media complex to unwanted and unwonted competition, while threatening to loosen its near-total control of information and opinion. Twitter has represented a vital component in an information configuration that has barred competitors and participants from the digital sphere by means of progressive criteria, including wokeness, political fealty, and obedience to official state dictates and narratives.

The response to the Twitter takeover by the arbiters of acceptable expression has been as hysterical as it has been swift. The New York Times, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Media Matters for Americamembers of the establishment professoriate, and other “experts” have rushed to fortify the defensive forces against free speech.

Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, described the sale of Twitter to Mr. Musk as

a victory for disinformation and the people who peddle it. Musk could unleash a wave of toxicity and harassment and undo Twitter’s efforts to increase quality engagement and make its platform safer for users….

This potential deal is about much more than the future of Twitter. A sale to Elon Musk without any conditions will pollute the entire information ecosystem by opening the floodgate of hate and lies. Twitter’s board needs to take this into account now before the deal is done.

Despite the special pleading for safe spaces, Carusone is right about one thing. The deal is about more than the future of Twitter. As if it wasn’t already obvious, the Twitter board’s earlier attempt to foil Musk’s seizure of the company with a poison pill betrayed the true nature of the Big Tech cartel member. It has not operated as a for-profit, free-market competitor but rather as a vital component in a carefully curated monopolistic information bubble that it has helped to cultivate and maintain, and within which it has not needed to compete.

Musk’s commitment to free speech has raised the hackles of the establishment gatekeepers, who ironically figure free speech as a “threat to democracy.” Alluding to Twitter’s state functions, California State East Bay professor of communication and history Nolan Higdon said that Musk’s acquisition makes “democracy less and less likely to work as it’s designed.” Democracy here does not mean equal representation in the public sphere but rather the preordained domination of a particular “democratic” ideology. This ideology is defined by the imperatives of “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” which are expressed in terms of acceptable and protected identities and politics.

Human rights groups fret that Musk’s commitment to free speech will endanger supposedly beleaguered identity groups, who will be harmed by other people’s speech given the possibility that Twitter’s restrictive algorithms will be overwritten. “Regardless of who owns Twitter,” wrote digital rights researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch Deborah Brown, “the company has human rights responsibilities to respect the rights of people around the world who rely on the platform. Changes to its policies, features, and algorithms, big and small, can have disproportionate and sometimes devastating impacts.”

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