Elon Musk’s assertion upon asserting his acquisition of Twitter dropped at thoughts one other buy, a decade earlier, by a person of equally appreciable wealth.
“In towns and cities where there is a strong sense of community, there is no more important institution than the local paper,” Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett stated in a press release after he agreed to buy the Richmond Times-Dispatch and different newspapers from Media General.
But seven years later, in an interview with Yahoo Finance, Buffett administered final rites to all however a number of newspapers within the U.S., declaring them ”toast.” The following yr, he offered his newspaper holdings, together with the Times-Dispatch.
What appeared like an try to protect an establishment elementary to each group and democracy turned on a enterprise determination.
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Which brings us to Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, and shortly, Twitter, which he’s shopping for for round $44 billion.
“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,” Musk stated in a press release Monday.
Nope. Not actually shopping for that.
Democracy and humanity truly functioned higher earlier than we had Twitter and different on-line hosts of misinformation, incitement and hate for folks to use.
I’m right here for the free speech, however not for the abusive habits Twitter has tried to curb. I’m additionally skeptical of much more focus of energy and wealth within the arms of an obscenely rich few.
The concept of Musk as a guardian of First Amendment rights is disquieting, even to the American Civil Liberties Union, which he avidly helps.
“While Elon Musk is an ACLU card-carrying member and one of our most significant supporters, there’s a lot of danger having so much power in the hands of any one individual,” stated ACLU govt director Anthony Romero in a press release that concluded: “We should be worried about any powerful central actor, whether it’s a government or any wealthy individual — even if it’s an ACLU member — having so much control over the boundaries of our political speech online.”
Frankly, I believe hate speech and corrosive misinformation have been far better issues on Twitter than stifled speech. And safeguarding free speech is way more difficult than “the tweets must flow,” the headline on a 2011 weblog publish by Twitter co-founder Bizz Stone.
“Some Tweets may facilitate positive change in a repressed country,” Stone wrote in that January 2011 piece.
Or, some tweets may push a rustic nearer to repression, autocracy and plutocracy — all within the service of better income for Musk.
“It could be really interesting for the bottom line of Twitter, which has seen problems posting a consistent profit. He could help the platform become profitable. “ says Marcus Messner, a professor of journalism at Virginia Commonwealth University who specializes in social media. “On the other hand, some of the statements that he has given have been a little concerning, especially when it comes to limiting restrictions on free speech on the platform.”
Given its historical past of internet hosting misinformation and incitement, culminating within the Jan. 6, 2021, rebellion and its ban on Donald Trump, Twitter is a digital stick of dynamite.
“It’s always a balancing act, right? You don’t want to go overboard with limiting speech. But I think what the past has shown us is what’s happened on social media can become dangerous.”
Indeed, folks appear to have misplaced the capability to differentiate between information and lies anymore, whether or not its Russians believing Vladimir Putin’s nonsense in regards to the conflict on Ukraine or American residents shopping for QAnon craziness or the lie of the stolen election. Trump continues to hawk that falsehood at each flip — motive sufficient to proceed that Twitter ban indefinitely. If Musk is pondering in any other case, that’s dangerous information.
Musk, who has greater than 85 million Twitter followers, has been known as out up to now for tweets about Tesla that the Securities and Exchange Commission deemed deceptive, which makes you marvel how a lot self-discipline the positioning will promote beneath his management. And I’m bothered by the potential energy dynamic this acquisition creates.
If the tremendous rich wish to promote democracy, they need to spend money on struggling newspapers, battle guide banning, and withhold the digital megaphone from of us who don’t consider in democracy.
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