Twitter on Monday agreed to allow Elon Musk, one of the platform’s most notorious trolls, to buy the company.
Twitter’s board of directors unanimously agreed to Musk’s offer to purchase the social media platform for roughly $44 billion, NBC News reported.
The announcement followed weeks of reported jostling between Musk and Twitter’s board of directors over whether he should be allowed to take over the company. Some people may have found comfort in recent reports saying Twitter’s board adopted a “poison pill” plan for shareholders that would prevent Musk from doing so. But Monday’s deal suggests Twitter was just holding out for the right price to sell out.
Make no mistake: Musk’s ownership of the company will likely make the platform into even more of a hellscape. The reasons why are clear to anyone willing to see them.
Musk has a warped view of free speech that’s not befitting of someone running a social media platform. His sophomoric perception of “free speech” draws from right-wing logic claiming moderation — even moderation of speech that might cause harm — is unjust. For example, he criticized Twitter’s decision to ban former President Donald Trump for posing a risk of inciting further violence after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“A good sign as to whether there’s free speech is: Is someone you don’t like allowed to say something you don’t like? And if that is the case, then we have free speech,” Musk said during an interview after he became Twitter’s largest investor this month.
Of course, Trump wasn’t booted from Twitter merely for saying things people “don’t like.” He was kicked off because he encouraged rioters who participated in effort to overturn an election. Musk doesn’t see a difference, which is why he’s just about the worst person to have at Twitter’s helm.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen the disturbing ways Musk personally engages with Twitter. It’s not hard to imagine what behavior he might encourage as the company’s new leader.
In 2018, he baselessly accused a diver who helped rescue a Thai soccer team from an underwater cave in 2018 was a “pedo.” He appeared to double down on that claim in a subsequent series of emails to BuzzFeed News, in which he claimed the diver was a “child rapist.”
The fact he made those claims suggests he — as Twitter’s owner — probably won’t do anything about the flood of baseless “groomer” allegations conservative Americans are making against some of their political opponents. And he seems poised to allow other hateful, right-wing conspiracy theories to proliferate, as well.
There’s also the issue of Musk’s leadership at the helm of Tesla, a tech company one former employee likened to being “forced to step back in time and suffer painful abuses reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.”
Tesla has faced multiple allegations of racial discrimination and harassment, and it’s doled out millions of dollars to victims in court-mandated payouts. (Tesla has denied the claims.)
With Twitter already facing criticism for the site’s inadequate response to racist hate, having Musk lead the company suggests Twitter won’t be making progress on that front any time soon.
The world is at a crossroad when it comes to social media, with some countries taking safety measures and others flirting with danger. The European Union on Friday approved legislation that will force companies like Facebook and Google to protect EU users from hate speech. Meanwhile, the United States seems to be doing the opposite, allowing an acquisition that seems primed to make social media more insufferable than ever before.