Experts Opinion on Why Elon Musk Bought Twitter
Following weeks of speculation, Elon Musk and Twitter confirmed on Monday that the billionaire will invest $44 billion in the social media network.
Musk’s purchase of Twitter comes as the firm struggles to strike a balance between allowing free expression and policing hazardous content, which includes anything from COVID-19 misinformation to harassment to postings advocating political violence. Musk, a self-described “free-speech absolutist,” has sparked conjecture about what changes he may bring to the company now that it is a private corporation rather than a public company owned by shareholders.
While Twitter’s 330 million active users pale in comparison to Facebook and TikTok, it wields power that extends beyond its numbers. Politicians, journalists, activists, and intellectuals are among the site’s most active users, implying that it has a disproportionate impact on public discussion and the media.
Musk’s purchase of Twitter was discussed by the PBS NewsHour with three experts in the fields of social media, communications, and democracy. For clarity, the talks have been minimally edited.
3 Expert opinions on what would Musk’s taking over of Twitter mean for the platform?
“I think no one really knows the answer to that question, including Musk himself,” says Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future. Yes, he isn’t an expert in content moderation, and I believe he will quickly discover that it is far more complicated than he expects or desires, as is the case with many others. All of this, in my opinion, shows the underlying problem, which is that there are far too few firms with far too much control over what can be seen, heard, and done online.
As a result, we’ve arrived at a point where one of the world’s wealthiest people is proposing to simply buy a platform that millions of people rely on, with the intention of changing the rules to suit his preferences. We are wasting far too much time, in my opinion, debating the rules of the few platforms we have, rather than asking ourselves what policies are required to lead to a world with more options. It doesn’t matter whether Elon Musk buys Twitter and changes the rules. It has no bearing on our democracy or society since people may simply leave and go somewhere else.
“That’s the multi-billion dollar question right now,” says Roy Gutterman, director of Syracuse University’s Tully Center for Free Speech. And we have no idea how, or even if, things will change. However, having so much power concentrated in one person is always a cause for concern. But, if we believe what Elon Musk has said about his commitment to free speech, then in the future, we should see a lot more open and robust debate and exchange of opinions on Twitter.”
“There may also be things that change overnight in terms of unblocking particular individuals, and we all know that certain users are at the heart of this debate.” So once he owns the sandbox, he can let anyone in or keep anyone out with the snap of a finger.”
“I don’t think we know right now,” says David Kaye, professor of law at UC Irvine and chair of the Global Network Initiative’s board of directors. I believe that if we take Elon’s approach to free speech, which is a kind of elementary school version of free speech in which the speaker is everything and the audience and other speakers don’t matter, Twitter will become a difficult site to use for many people. But I think he’ll quickly realize that Twitter has regulations in place to protect freedom of expression, and the more time he spends there, the more he’ll appreciate them and seek to make it a better place.