Elon Musk is a visionary, a billionaire, and an immigrant to America who has built his fortune on relentless work and an ardent belief in first principles. His bid to use his vast resources to buy Twitter and bring a semblance of free speech and open debate back to the popular social media platform is laudable. But just remember one thing: Elon Musk is not a savior of free speech and expression. He’s not your savior.
He would probably be the first to assert that truth, but would the fawning media in the thrall of sticking it to Twitter listen to him?
Musk’s impulse to buy the the micro-social platform and open up debate once again is good and noble, but not even the self-made force of nature thinks he walks on water.
“I don’t want to blow your mind, but I’m not always right,” Musk told an interviewer in a Ted Talk released this week. He referred to his continual attempts at creating and perfecting self-driving Teslas.
The electric car manufacturer’s market capitalization hit $1 trillion in October of 2021.
Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate the first Giga Texas deliveries and party with us. Yeehaw! pic.twitter.com/w4LJR79l5b
— Tesla (@Tesla) April 9, 2022
It’s a safe assumption that he recognizes his imperfections in all of his exploits, such as his efforts at SpaceX to someday colonize Mars.
All systems and weather are looking good ahead of tomorrow’s Falcon 9 launch of the NROL-85 mission → https://t.co/sHZKdDacjG pic.twitter.com/CHPA9YypCw
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 16, 2022
Related: Congress Reacts as Tesla Opens a Showroom in China’s Genocide Province
Musk’s influence on Twitter is incalculable but his reach is quantifiable. The Wall Street Journal reports “It took Mr. Musk more than a decade to reach 40 million followers on Twitter in November 2020. He hit 80 million this month.”
Maybe to soften up Twitter for his pending attempt to buy it, Musk asked out loud if the format was “dying.”
Most of these “top” accounts tweet rarely and post very little content.
Is Twitter dying? https://t.co/lj9rRXfDHE
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 9, 2022
Musk’s smart and capable. People are happy they share this certified smart guy’s belief that Twitter misuses its vast power to amplify the Left and suppress the political right. It means they’re smart, too. They’re happy to share a belief held by a genius that Twitter has misused its reach to wield political power and to demonize those who have different ideas, such as the outspoken former president, Donald Trump. In fact, one half expects that Twitter would think nothing of booting Musk from its platform. After all, if you can do that to the president of the United States, you can do it Musk, right?
It’s fun to watch Musk make the censorious Twitter squirm.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2022
The micro platform with enormous influence is cozy with overwhelmingly Democrat political players. Former Obama Administration officials have embedded themselves like ticks throughout Silicon Valley.
The Left’s concern with a billionaire buying a communications outlet is deeply disingenuous, considering that they cheerlead Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’s ownership of The Washington Post.
“I think it’s important [Twitter] is an inclusive arena for free speech,” Musk said. “Twitter has become sort of the de facto town square, so it’s really important that people have both the reality and perception that they’re able to speak freely within the bounds of the law, and one of the things I think Twitter should do is open-source the algorithm” to show how the social media platform amplifies or censors content. He’s right. Open the black vault, Twitter.
The stakes are high. “It’s important to the function of democracy, it’s important to the function of the United States as a free country, and many other countries, that to help freedom in the world more broadly than in the U.S. The civilizational risk is increased with Twitter the more we can decrease the trust of Twitter as a public platform,” he told a Ted Talk audience in Vancouver, Canada late last week. But acquiring it is no sure thing. “I think this will be somewhat painful and I don’t know that I’ll actually be able to acquire it,” he said.
He told the audience that it’s not about the money. “I don’t care about the economics of it at all,” he said.
Musk’s idea of how Twitter would operate sounds like the Twitter of old. The free exchange of ideas, Musk asserts, is when “someone you don’t like is allowed to say something you don’t like. And if that is the case, then we have free speech. It’s damned annoying when someone you don’t like says something you don’t like, but that is the sign of a healthy free speech situation.”
But note there would not be complete free speech because of the laws of the countries in which Twitter exists. “Twitter is bound by the laws of the country that it operates in, so there are limitations on free speech in the U.S. … But going beyond that and having it be unclear who’s making what changes to where, having tweets being mysteriously promoted or demoted with no insight into what’s going on, having a black vault algorithm promote some things and not other things — I think this can be quite dangerous,” he asserts.
“When in doubt, let the speech — let [the tweet] exist. If it’s a gray area, I would say let the tweet exist.” But here’s where he has not thought through what Twitter would become under a Musk ownership. “[O]bviously in a case where there’s perhaps a lot of controversy, you might not necessarily want to promote that tweet,” he says. “I’m not saying I have all the answers here, but I do think we ought to be reluctant to delete things, ban — just be very cautious with permanent bans. Time outs I think are better than permanent bans.”
Musk will not be the savior of all free speech and Twitter will not be the vehicle of free speech, even under a Musk regime.
Free speech purity may not be achievable, but it’s up to the individual to seek out all the new platforms that have arisen because of dystopian censorship on the established platforms. MySpace is still floating around on the interwebs somewhere, but few use it. If there’s justice, that will happen to Twitter. Twitter had its time and it blew it because of the despotic “elites” running it.
If Musk acquires Twitter, great. But conservatives should not depend on Elon Musk to fight for free speech for them.
While admirable, Elon Musk is not your savior.