Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter will destroy freedom of speech, not protect it

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter will destroy freedom of speech, not protect it

NEW YORK (Project Syndicate)—In 1897, the American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst sent illustrator Frederic Remington to cover the Cuban War of Independence. When Remington relayed that “there will be no war,” Hearst allegedly cabled back: “You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war.”

 

It’s an old story with a well-known moral: Wealth confers power, and power begets a craving for more power. A familiar corollary follows: He who controls the means of mass communication controls how reality is constructed and conveyed.

 

The means of mass communication have changed since Hearst’s time, but the behavior of plutocrats has not. Having used Twitter quite effectively to promote his own businesses, Elon Musk recognizes that the platform commands significant influence in contemporary public life. And now that he has completed his $44 billion purchase of the company, it is imperative that we consider why he wanted it—and what he will most likely do with it.

Freedom to spread hate, mistrust

“Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square,” Musk tweeted on March 26, 2022, “failing to adhere to free-speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy.” In deciding to buy the company, he explained a week or so later, “I don’t care about the economics at all…my strong, intuitive sense [is] that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization.

 

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