Elon Musk Twitter Buyout Prompts Polarized Reactions

Nick Ciolino
By Nick Ciolino
April 25, 2022Businessshare
Elon Musk Twitter Buyout Prompts Polarized Reactions
The Twitter sign outside of Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, on April 25, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Twitter announced on Monday that it had reached a final agreement to be acquired by Elon Musk for approximately $44 billion, prompting mixed reactions as users prepare for a new content moderation policy.

The new announcement concludes a three-week saga of Musk’s total acquisition of the social media corporation, which began on April 4 when Musk announced that he had personally acquired a 9.1 percent stake in Twitter Inc.

After declining an offer to join Twitter’s Board of Directors, which would limit his stake in the company to 14.9 percent, Musk made his “final offer” to buy the company outright.

Throughout the acquisition process, Musk has positioned himself as a principled free speech ideologue, motivated more by his vision for an open information platform than by financial interests.

“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,” Musk said in a statement. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential—I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”

Musk’s buyout of the platform has been welcomed by many conservatives, hopeful that the new leadership will allow for the reinstatement of former President Donald Trump’s oft-discussed Twitter account. However, this same hope has alarmed Trump critics, who fear that the reinstatement of the former president’s account will be an asset to him in the upcoming presidential elections.

When asked about the Twitter buyout, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “No matter who owns or runs Twitter, the president has long been concerned about the power of large social media platforms… [President Biden] has long argued that tech platforms must be held accountable for the harms they cause.”

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem responded to news of the deal by welcoming the company to move to her state. “[I]f Twitter is in need of a new HQ, South Dakota is open for business,” she said.

The acquisition has given hope to all manner of political dissidents that the new Twitter could serve as a welcoming space for critics of the social and political orthodoxy, allowing for the free expression of views that have heretofore been subject to censorship and suppression.

“It goes without saying that a monopoly social-media platform not beholden to the prestige media and its single synoptic perspective would be a source of enormous power that could create all kinds of tactical and strategic victories,” writes tech entrepreneur and political theorist Curtis Yarvin.

At the same time, Musk’s critics and proponents of the status quo Twitter moderation policy have reacted with fear and hostility to the prospect of Musk’s proposed reforms. Several prominent journalists, many possessing the infamous “blue checkmark” of Twitter’s verified users, have contemplated leaving platform if Musk acquires it, raising the prospect of a mass exodus of journalists, politicians, and celebrities from the site.

“If you get invited to something where there are no rules, where there is total freedom for everybody, do you actually want to go to that party or are you going to decide to stay home? And that’s a question for Twitter users,” CNN’s Brian Stelter said. “Some Twitter users might love the idea, that there’s going to be absolutely no moderation and no rules at all. Others might not want to be anywhere near that.”

Elon Musk
Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla Inc., in Los Angeles on Dec. 3, 2019. (Apu Gomes/Getty Images)

However, despite Stelter’s framing of the issue, Musk has not promised a total absence of moderation on the site. It is telling that even Yarvin, who welcomes the acquisition as a meaningful opportunity for dissident thought to flourish, quickly dismisses the notion of ending moderation altogether.

“It is not enough to say that [Musk] should ‘end censorship,'” Yarvin writes. “What is the difference between censorship and moderation? Censorship is just bad moderation. If a Musk-owned twitter ended moderation, the results might even be bad enough to destroy a stable monopoly like Twitter. Not much else could.”

With the acquisition offer now a settled matter, the only thing that remains is to be seen is how Musk will use his newfound power as the personal owner of Twitter. This new purchase will give Musk an unprecedented, unilateral control over the popular social media site, leaving the future very much undetermined for the bird-branded platform.

Twitter first filed to go public in September 2013, with about 200 million users on the platform at the time. In the ensuing decade, Twitter has enjoyed widespread popularity and particular influence among media and corporate elites, but the company has struggled to translate this success into consistent stock growth or a drastically higher base of active users.

Though Twitter’s executives attempted to expand the platform with new features, the company’s stock showed little long-term growth during its period as a publicly traded company. On April 1, the last day of public trading before Musk announced his 9.1 percent stake, Twitter closed at $39.31 per share—slightly lower than the $40.50 per share Twitter opened with on Nov. 11, 2013. Musk is buying the company at $54.20 per share.

From The Epoch Times

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