Musk's Twitter Bid May Be Good News For Freer Speech, But We Have To Wait And Watch

by R Jagannathan - Apr 15, 2022 11:11 AM +05:30 IST
Musk's Twitter Bid May Be Good News For Freer Speech, But We Have To Wait And WatchTesla chief Elon Musk.
Snapshot
  • What is really good about Musk’s bid is that it will at least end the biases that favour only one kind of narrative, the one favoured by the Left-liberal media mafia, with their anti-Hindu and pro-Islamic postures.

Tesla boss Elon Musk’s unsolicited $43 billion bid for Twitter has the potential for both good and evil, probably more of the latter if a successful bid results in greater leeway for truly free speech.

As things stand now, there will be huge resistance within Twitter and also the Left-liberal academic cabal, which has served as chief censor board for this micro-blogging site. Twitter policies on flagging unacceptable content are opaque, and this is evident from how it blocks, deletes or shadow-bans some users, but not others. The tilt appears to be towards Islamism and the Left, and against Conservative opinion, both in the US and elsewhere. It indirectly encourages Hinduphobia by being slow to remove posts that offend Hindus and shadow-bans anyone or anything that is offensive to Muslims or Islam.

Musk, with a 9.2 per cent stake, is the largest single shareholder in a company which largely seems to be held by institutions. Vanguard, Morgan Stanley, BlackRock and State Street Corp are the next biggest owners, accounting for another quarter of Twitter’s ownership. Put simply, it means the Twitter’s effective content management is dependent not on what its principal shareholders want, but what its top executives and censors want. That accounts for most of its biases.

If Musk succeeds in taking it private (ie, if his bid for control succeeds with many institutions selling to him and he can consider delisting the company), it will give him an opportunity to impose his own standards of free speech. Musk claims to be a “free speech absolutist”, which means biases may be removed from who gets heard and who gets banned on the platform.

If Musk had owned Twitter in January 2020, it is unlikely he would have chosen to deplatform a sitting (though defeated) US President. The violence on Capitol Hill on 6 January by Donald Trump supporters gave big tech just the right excuse to silence him.

At that time, Musk had tweeted: “A lot of people are going to be super unhappy with West Coast high tech as the de facto arbiter of free speech.” Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and many other tech platforms banned Trump and his supporters in a move that cannot be seen as good for free speech. However, the deplatforming may have been prompted more by the need to protect big tech’s business interests than anything else. Trump’s head was probably a sacrificial offering to the incoming administration of Joe Biden, who was largely backed by the Left-liberal caucus. This made sense, since many on the Left-liberal side threatened to break up big tech and reduce its economic power.

If Musk ends up removing Twitter’s obvious biases if and when he gets to own it fully, that would be a plus. What would be worrisome is the idea that one tycoon gets to own such a major media platform without any counter-vailing power to ensure that free speech really remains free speech. What, for example, will Musk do if Twitter also becomes a platform for negative opinions on him and his businesses, including Tesla? One presumes that Musk is maverick enough to not meddle in censoring stuff that targets him and his business, but the history of human kind suggests that even benevolent monopolies do not guarantee free speech. Competition is vital.

What is really good about Musk’s bid is that it will at least end the biases that favour only one kind of narrative, the one favoured by the Left-liberal media mafia, with their anti-Hindu and pro-Islamic postures. In that sense, Indians who were at the receiving end of Twitter’s biases, should welcome Musk’s entry. But we have to wait and see if things actually pan out that way.

Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
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