Musk's Surprising Reversal on Twitter Purchase Poses a Fundamental Threat to the Network's Users and Democracy
WASHINGTON — According to press reports on Tuesday, Elon Musk has agreed to honor his original offer to purchase Twitter at a $44-billion valuation, buying out the company’s shareholders to take the platform private. CNBC reported that the 15-day waiting period on such a transfer of ownership could be waived, giving Musk control of the social-media network as early as Friday.
Musk agreed to a $54.20-a-share purchase in April, but he quickly backed away from the offer, claiming that Twitter had misrepresented how many people regularly use its platform. Twitter is in the process of suing Musk to force him to go through with the original offer. The trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 17.
Musk had repeatedly tweeted and discussed his plans to “transform” the social network and make “significant improvements” to the ways it manages content. A self-described free-speech absolutist, Musk has a troubling history of using the social-media network to intimidate and disparage others, including journalists, elected officials, owners of competing businesses and anyone else who might challenge his views.
Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. González said:
“If the news reports are true and Musk completes his planned takeover of Twitter, he won’t just be purchasing another expensive play toy, but a global online community that includes hundreds of millions of regular users. With control of such a massive platform comes great responsibility — and Musk hasn’t shown he has the will to be accountable to this diverse online community.
“He recently took to the platform to propose a resolution to the war in Ukraine that reads as though Putin’s chief propagandist wrote it. And he routinely fails to show that he’s able or interested in protecting other Twitter users or respecting their free-speech rights. Rather, he’s used the platform to attack people, often launching petulant broadsides against anyone he doesn’t like or agree with. And he’s regularly rallied a Twitter mob of loyal fans to follow his lead with more vicious threats and bullying.
“For years, Free Press and its partners in the Change the Terms coalition have pressured Twitter to be more accountable about its moderation methods. This work includes fixing Twitter algorithms and other systems that promote the most misleading and hateful content, protecting its users equally regardless of where they live and what language they speak, and being more transparent about the social network’s amplification and moderation practices.
“Protecting everyone’s ability to participate and speak on online platforms requires careful moderation. Musk taking the company private would likely threaten this notion and make the platform even more toxic to its users and the public.
“With or without Musk at the helm, Twitter must take a series of actions outlined by Change the Terms’ Fix the Feed campaign to correct known failures at the company and do right by Twitter users. The platform must continue efforts to stop amplifying bigotry and conspiracy theories that pollute public discourse, threaten the health and safety of users and undermine democracy.
“The leader of any social-media platform must take action against things like glorification and incitement of violence; the spread of disinformation, sexual harassment and abuse; and other hateful activities. These protections are essential for all platform users and not just a few prominent and powerful influencers like Musk.
“This deal seems like it’s just about making shareholders happy and feeding Musk’s enormous ego. Twitter should instead focus on protecting civil and human rights, public health and safety, and our democracy. Period.”