What Elon Musk’s $44 billion purchase of Twitter may mean for the company and free speech, Business entrepreneur Elon Musk and Twitter announced a $44 billion deal today for musk to buy the company and take it over. The deal reportedly is the largest to take a public company private in at least two decades. It’s also led to major concerns about how musk, who is one of the world’s richest men, will handle questions of extremist content and free speech. As Stephanie sy tells us, musk says he has plans to change Twitter’s approach and how it operates. Duty, when Elon Musk first made his bid about two weeks ago, many were not sure how seriously to treat his offer. But after a surprising weekend of negotiations, Twitters board accepted the offer today. Musk has made it clear repeatedly he does not agree with all of Twitter’s previous bans on users for posting content that might be considered hateful or used to incite violence. In announcing the deal, musk wrote today, “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.” For a look at some important questions, I am joined by the Electgosnell post silicon valley correspondent Elizabeth dwoskin. Thank you for joining the newshour.
Elon Musk has put a good chunk of his net worth into this bid for Twitter but he has made it clear this was never about business. What is it about? Yes, he said it is not about money, repeatedly. I think you have to take him at his word. In the last year, he has become fairly obsessed with talking about ideas about free speech. And the digital town square and the power of platforms like Twitter. And he wants to control that. And I will also put in that he is probably in the set he is probably this happiest marketer in the world. This is also buying his own marketing machine. But ownership, as you know, is not the same thing as control. On the free-speech issue, today, Elon Musk tweeted “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free-speech means.” Is it fair to assume that Elon Musk is going to try to shed all constraints on legal free-speech on Twitter? I mean, he said that. He said Twitter should follow the letter of the law and free speech in the U.S., which we all know is the first amendment, which basically allows huge latitude for free speech, short of direct calls for violence. He has said that, and I just got off listening in on a town hall on Twitter, within Twitter, employees, talking about it right now at Twitter. And what the employees themselves are extremely worried that he is going to strip the company of the safeguards and protections against misinformation and hate speech that the company has worked to build over the last five or so years. People working there are really worried about that, and some are tweeting crying emojis right now. He is not only going to have to be accountable to his employees, now that he is the owner of Twitter.
Won’t he also have to go through the same tight wire act of not losing users and advertisers? Isn’t that, to some degree, accountability? I think so. One of the questions asked at the town hall, is it seems when he takes the company private, there might not be a board of directors. People were asking, what kind of? will there be on musk if he wants to reinstate trump’s account, for example, or allow images of ISIS beheadings? There has been terrible things online where tech companies have her have worked hard to get rid of. There has been reporting today that advertisers themselves, think about it, if you are a big advertiser of toothpaste, do you want your ads, or Pepsi, do you want your ad showing up next to a child being raped? For an ISIS beheading? These are horrible things these companies work hard to get rid of and have rules about. Yes, they make tons of mistakes, but stripping them of the rules would be hard, would be very hard for advertisers. Musk has expressed skepticism of the advertising business model, and actually there is no clear answer on whether he would keep that on Twitter once it goes private. As you know, Twitter under jack Dorsey made the decision to ban president trump after the January 6 capital assault and others, like Marjorie Taylor Greene have been banned as well for spreading false information. Mr. Trump said he is not planning to go back on Twitter.
Has musk indicated he will restore accounts of people who have been deplatformed, is what they say in the twitterverse? He said the deplatforming had gone too far. He even said that after January 6, during the insurrection. I thought that was interesting at the time. Here is a moment in America society when the whole tech industry is saying, we are going to blanket ban not just trump, but many of his followers as well that were promoting the insurrection, and Elon Musk is going the other way saying, tech companies are going to regret the decisions they made around content moderation. That is one of the things that gives Twitter employees pause, and a lot of observers pause as well about what he might do. He certainly has not come out and said, I am going to restore trump. But people are reading between the tea leaves and interestingly enough, that question was not answered in today’s town hall. Twitter has struggled with issues like trolls and bots and bad actors gaming and manipulating the platform. One thing musk said today he will do to build trust in the platform is “Authenticate all humans.” I think something only Elon Musk would say.
Are you hearing any positive reaction to his ability to potentially solve some of Twitter’s real problems with his design acumen? Overall, the response I have heard is negative. But I always say the caveat of, I don’t have a crystal ball into every Twitter employee’s minds. I may be hearing from the people who are more upset. Got to hold that as a possibility. I do think that some people look, Elon Musk is seen, for all of his wildness and firebrand ways, he is a visionary leader and brilliant. Lots of people in the tech world and outside of him — outside of it think of him that way. That is what the Twitter’s leadership has tried to emphasize. Here is a person who can bring value to Twitter. One of the things the CEO said to the employees today, is he said we all think of Twitter as this place, this platform that has this unrealized potential. Because it is used by power influencers but never gained the widespread social acceptance of a tiktok or a Facebook or YouTube. I’m sorry, the widespread use, the level of users or profits. I think he was meaning exactly that to employees. Look at what Elon Musk could bring. But I don’t know if people will be assured by that. I think they have a lot to lose.Who reports in silicon valley for the Electgosnell post, thank you.