The left panics: what if Elon Musk buys Twitter?

Elon Musk has done an offer to acquire 100% of the shares of Twitter. As he himself has stated, only by controlling the company and delisting it can it be expected that his business model radically change course: move from an expansive content moderation to a minimalist restraint because, understanding Muskexcessive moderation undermines the essential freedom of expression in democracy. If Twitter acts for practical purposes as a ‘public square’ in which political issues are debated, moderating certain opinions within that public square can bias the course of democracies in the direction determined by the moderator: hence Musk advocating an hands-free approach in that only those clearly criminal comments (such as threats) are vetoed.

Personally, I have defended the right of Twitteras a private company, to set its internal moderation rulessince it is not obvious which ones work better than others and, therefore, there is no other remedy than to experiment with various options to discover it: and who has a priority right to this experimentation are the creators and administrators of that social network, that is, the board of directors of Twitter and, ultimately, its shareholders. However, and even acknowledging the right to mark its internal rules of moderationme personal preference as a user leans more toward a social network like the one Musk espouses: hence he looks sympathetically at his plans to acquire the company and tweak internal moderation rules.

Opinion

Broad sectors of the American left, however, have harshly criticized the possibility that The richest man in the world ended up buying Twitter: but not, as had been customary among the left, because they fear that Musk will acquire a media outlet to censor those opinions that are not convenient to their interests, but because they fear that he will censor (moderate) much less than before.

Thus, for example, the former editor of the ‘Chicago Tribune’ mark jacob lamented Musk’s takeover bid, urging him to set up his own platform instead of sticking his nose into Twitter: “Elon Musk is bad news. You should create your own social network, for example Red Social Oligarca, and leave Twitter alone”. It’s not entirely clear why Jacob believes reducing moderation on Twitter will make that social network in a redoubt of oligarchs instead of expanding the typology of potential users of it: rather it would seem to be the other way around, namely, that greater moderation ends up turning this social network into an increasingly elitist redoubt.

Photo: Photo: EPA/Alexander Becher Opinion

In addition, Felix Salmon He also recorded his disagreement by pointing out: “The richest man in the world (someone who is already often compared to Iron man from Marvel) is increasingly behaving like a movie supervillain, controlling seemingly limitless resources with which to finance their outrages.” Again, it is not clear why reducing moderation on Twitter constitutes such an outrage as to turn someone into a villain: rather, the intuition seems to be the opposite, namely that expanding the type of messages that can be posted within Twitter constitutes a heroism that will facilitate the debate without obstacles within this social network.

But perhaps we can better understand how the American left characterizes Musk as a villain if we listen to the opinion of Bill Clinton’s former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich: “Is anyone else worried that another oligarch controls another source of information? Trump should never be allowed to return to Twitter”. In other words, the problem of the richest man in the world buying Twitter does not lie with those he is going to silence, but with those who will let speak. But if Trump can’t get back on Twitter Even if its owners agree to its return, should we prevent Trump from expressing himself from any medium or only from Twitter (and if so, why only from Twitter?).

Photo: EC

In that same sense —that the survival of democracy requires silencing certain expressions— it is expressed Max Boot: “I am terrified by the impact on society and politics that an acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk would have. He seems to believe that anything goes on social media. But for democracy to survive, we need more restraint [de comentarios], not less”. And he also maintains that, although in a more hyperbolic way, Jeff Jarvis: “Today Twitter looks like the last evening in a Berlin nightclub before the twilight of the Weimar Republic”.

That Musk expand the options of expressing himself within Twitter undermines, as part of the left understands, democracy: not for the opinions that you are going to silence, but for those that you are going to allow to be expressed. In such a case, would it not then be legitimate for democracy to defend itself against oligarchs like Musk regulating Twitter to restrict freedom of expression within it? Because that’s the message they’re sending: If Musk doesn’t want to moderate, the State will moderate for him to expel undesirables from that public forum.

As I have already said, I believe that Twitter and any other platform or media outlet have the right to self-organize internally, but the call that certain sectors of the left are making in the face of the possibility that Twitter becomes more lax in the moderation of comments is one and very clear: the censorship of those who go outside the canons of what they deem democratically admissible. So censorship it would be forcing Twitter to close certain accounts like banning a newspaper from publishing certain writers.

Elon Musk has done an offer to acquire 100% of the shares of Twitter. As he himself has stated, only by controlling the company and delisting it can it be expected that his business model radically change course: move from an expansive content moderation to a minimalist restraint because, understanding Muskexcessive moderation undermines the essential freedom of expression in democracy. If Twitter acts for practical purposes as a ‘public square’ in which political issues are debated, moderating certain opinions within that public square can bias the course of democracies in the direction determined by the moderator: hence Musk advocating an hands-free approach in that only those clearly criminal comments (such as threats) are vetoed.

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The left panics: what if Elon Musk buys Twitter?