Sunday, May 01, 2022
Not having talked to the man himself, to the best of my knowledge and based on public information, Elon Musk is a man with colorful views which are all over the place politically. For example he supports universal basic income, which is an extreme left position, but he also opposes cancel culture, which is a more right wing position. However, if you look at what other people say currently about Elon Musk, he is Hitler incarnate and will single-handedly destroy the internet. Because he has bought Twitter, and expressed the opinion that banning certain right-wing politicians and news outlets from Twitter is wrong. There is a not insignificant probability that Donald Trump will get his Twitter account back.
What is interesting about this is that it shatters a previous polite illusion that Twitter is a politically neutral platform, which only bans hate speech. The same people who claimed that since Twitter banned Trump are now expressing their fear that Twitter will ban *their* opinions and candidates. Which means that suddenly left and right are united in the opinion that whoever has control over Twitter, could wield immense political power by banning certain outlets or even more insidiously tweak algorithms that push certain political opinions more than others.
While it will still take some time before Elon Musk is actually in control, some things can already be observed now, just in the few days since the takeover was agreed upon: Right-wing personalities on Twitter have a huge influx of tens to hundreds of thousands of followers. Left-wing personalities are losing followers. That is indicative of two things: People flock towards echo chambers, and away from platforms where they are likely to even come in contact with opposing views; and in the public perception a purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk means a move towards the right.
On January 6, 2021, a mob of 2,000–2,500 supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump attacked the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. They sought to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election by disrupting the joint session of Congress assembled to count electoral votes that would formalize President-elect Joe Biden's victory. Source Wikipedia. A lot of people think that Donald Trump is at least partially to blame for that attack, and I would agree with that. But what was the worst negative consequence of political importance to Donald Trump in the 16 months since? He lost his Twitter account. That, and the panic about the possibility of him getting that Twitter account back, tells you something. It means that the CEO of Twitter in some instances wields more political power than congress or the president. And that because Twitter is (or should I say "was") a publicly traded company, that political power is for sale.
While the problem is pretty clear, the solution is far from clear. In a perfect world, lawmakers would agree to some reasonable limitations to the political power of companies. In the real world, lawmakers ban math books that they consider too woke. Whoever is in power at whatever level of politics only tries to limit the political power of companies that disagree with him. If a month ago there would have been any attempt of Republicans to limit the power of Twitter, Democrats would have tried to block these attempts. Today it might just be the other way around. The two sides fundamentally agree that certain companies have too much power, but will never agree on measures against that, because each side wants measures that only harms their political opponents.
I don't think Elon Musk is the worst possible owner of Twitter, and he might well make that platform more centrist than it is now. But you never know with that guy. At some point later in his life he might announce his candidacy to become president of the United States. Does anybody think that owning Twitter wouldn't be an unfair advantage for such a candidate? And isn't it weird that there is no regulation about this sort of unfair advantage?