Struggle Between Elon Musk And Twitter Is About The Freedom To Hold Any Opinion You Want

Struggle Between Elon Musk And Twitter Is About The Freedom To Hold Any Opinion You Want

by Rajeev Srinivasan - Apr 14, 2022 06:06 PM +05:30 IST
Struggle Between Elon Musk And Twitter Is About The Freedom To Hold Any Opinion You WantElon Musk (Wikimedia Commons)
  • The sum and substance is that information warfare is all around. He who can control information wins.

    It used to be the likes of the NYTimes. Now it is social media.

Breaking news bombshell: Elon Musk made an offer to buy all of Twitter for $43.4 billion, according to the Financial Times. As Sherlock Holmes might have said, the game is afoot.

This news came in while I was writing the following article. Why is this such a big deal?

The facts are simple. Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, has been a critic of Twitter for its arbitrary algorithms and/or human monitors that suspend twitter users of certain political persuasions. Musk calls himself a “free speech absolutist”, paradoxically has 80 million followers on Twitter, and has been accused of moving markets with his tweets.

It transpired the other day that Musk now holds 9.2 per cent of Twitter stock, and is the largest single stockholder. The news rang alarm bells among Twitter employees, it seems. (Why, I wonder. If they are as fair and neutral as they claim to be, why should they worry?). Others got into the act, and Substack announced that it had many job openings, but Twitter employees need not apply.

There was furious back and forth between Musk and the Twitter board and its CEO Parag Agrawal. Agrawal tweeted that he was delighted to welcome Musk to the board of directors. The implication was that it was going to be one big happy family.

Then Musk changed his mind. It appears he would not go on the board after all. I believe other big investors, such as an activist investment fund named Elliott Investment, as well as Saudi Prince Alwaleed, have board representation. However, being on the board means you have a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders, and that you cannot hold more than 15 per cent of the shares. So now the other shoe has fallen.

Nobody knew exactly what Elon Musk’s game plan was, but I have to compliment him for setting the fox in the chicken-coop. The wailing and gnashing of teeth among the 'wokes' in Silicon Valley and online were a sight to behold. Their primary fear? That former POTUS Donald Trump would be brought back to the platform after having been casually defenestrated.

What a bizarre spectacle! But then, this is par for the course for left-leaning people, who love nothing better than censorship and the de-platforming of those they do not agree with. This standard leftist behaviour, and is pervasive: Fahrenheit 451 redux.

I have personally experienced this with a lunatic-fringe leftie former classmate of mine. He recently advocated kicking me off the class Whatsapp group because, why, I hold opinions he doesn’t approve of. He once threatened a book seller to not sell a book which had a chapter written by me because, why, only his opinion is valid and worth promoting.

I have been listening to various journalists on left-leaning stations bloviate about the perils of what would happen to life, the universe, and everything, if one social media channel were to be taken over by someone who doesn’t share their world-view. The heavens may not fall if their psychological warfare monopoly is broken, though.

Twitter is a big channel indeed, but certainly not the only one. India has its own Koo, which has improved by leaps and bounds, but the first-mover advantage helps Twitter dominate the Indian market. I have been on Koo off and on, and I should be more active on it, but inertia leads me to tweet.

Twitter has behaved very badly in India, effectively violating Indian laws and ‘canceling’ Hindu voices and right-of-centre perspectives. I personally have been shadow-banned for years: I noticed that my posts do not get seen by my followers, and large numbers of people I have never heard of have blocked me: there is mass-blocking.

But others have fared far worse. For instance, there is the sad story of @TrueIndology (here’s a link to my podcast on that). This handle provided utterly believable primary sources to demolish a lot of myth-making that is done routinely by India’s lefties to ‘prove’ that Hindus have no history and no rights in India. He was able to totally rout these poseurs with his erudition.

For no obvious reason, Twitter India just kicked him out.

He appeared in a new guise, @Bharadwajspeaks, and once again the same thing happened. He was defenestrated, just like that, and all the protests by twitterati had no impact. This sort of treatment has been meted out regularly to nationalists and conservatives, never to leftists. Others have been suspended arbitrarily, and sometimes reinstated, but Bharadwaj has been permanently silenced.

The other part of Twitter’s arrogance has been its dealings with the Indian government. On the one hand, they are not really a common carrier in the same sense that, say, the cellular carriers are. They actively curate news and opinion, and therefore they are a publisher that comes under certain IT Ministry rules.

Twitter India refused to abide by these rules, one of which for instance required them to have a resident grievance officer. Their arrogance knew no bounds: they acted as though their internal rules were more important than the Government of India’s rules. And, humiliatingly, the GoI appeared to let them get away with it. Not so others like Nigeria that turned off their IP addresses until they promised good behaviour.

The sum and substance is that information warfare is all around (as seen during the Ukraine war). He who can control information wins. It used to be the likes of the NYTimes. Now it is social media. If Elon Musk succeeds in his hostile takeover of Twitter, he is king. Is that a good thing? We shall have to wait and see. But Voltaire would probably approve.

Rajeev Srinivasan focuses on strategy and innovation, which he worked on at Bell Labs and in Silicon Valley. He has taught innovation at several IIMs. An IIT Madras and Stanford Business School grad, he has also been a conservative columnist for twenty years.

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