Speculation about Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s interest in taking over Twitter was ever-present after the billionaire investor turned down a board seat, but few expected the offer to come so soon. Musk’s surprise offer to buy Twitter and make it private drew mixed reactions, as the executive, a self-described free-speech absolutist, advocates fewer restrictions on the type of content posted on the microblogging platform. .
Many are concerned about a potential lack of accountability and the social media giant’s impact on democracies in the event of minimal restraint, as they have struggled to contain hate speech. “Twitter is too important to be owned and controlled by a single individual,” venture capitalist Fred Wilson tweeted. “The opposite should be true. The administration of Twitter must be decentralized.”
“I am concerned about the impact on society and politics if Elon Musk acquires Twitter,” Max Boot, a columnist for the Washington Post, tweeted. “She seems to believe that anything goes on social media. We need more content moderation, not less, if democracy is to survive,” Boot added.
Since much of Elon Musk’s money is invested in shares of Tesla and SpaceX, it has not been clear how he would finance the cash offer. While reports indicate that Twitter is considering Musk’s offer, opposition from shareholders or board members could suspend Musk’s offer.
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has already tweeted his opposition to the proposal, claiming it is too low. “I don’t think @elonmusk’s proposed offer ($54.20) comes anywhere near @Twitter’s intrinsic value given its growth prospects,” he tweeted.
Musk responded harshly, questioning Saudi Arabia’s “views on journalistic freedom of expression.”
Musk’s stance on the approach to policing the platform’s content, particularly for the most egregious violations of its terms of service, has been divisive. Former US President Donald Trump has been banned from using the platform indefinitely after tweets and videos from him sparked an uprising at the US Capitol. However, Trump supporters have expressed their dissatisfaction with the company’s decision.
Musk, without naming the former US president, said he doesn’t think “We just want to be very reluctant to remove things and be very cautious about permanent bans. Time-outs, in my opinion, are preferable.” Musk supporters called Musk’s hostile takeover bid “the best news for free speech in years.”
Republican Senator Ted Cruz has indicated his support for less moderation. In response to Boot’s criticism, he tweeted: “If the left thinks they’re right, why are they so afraid of free speech?”
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