The Elon Musk takeover of Twitter has awakened a flurry of passion and controversial opinions in a network that has historically been the home of passions and controversial opinions. Conservatives have generally welcomed the purchase, trusting that Musk will restore free speech on the platform. Many liberal commentators, however, have had a complete meltdown over the acquisition of Twitter by the eccentric billionaire.
Cable TV hosts on MSNBC, journalists in prestigious outlets, Democrat elected officials, and even civic organizations that allege to defend civil rights have all raised their voices against Musk‘s Twitter takeover. Some argue that it is inconceivable for a billionaire to own a powerful social media platform. Others are afraid that Musk’s “free speech absolutism” would be somehow detrimental to democracy. There are also those who were afraid of the power Twitter could have in influencing elections.
Leaving aside the legitimate reservations many might have with Musk, some of the takes and opinions made on the soon-to-be Musk-owned Twitter have been quite outlandish. Here is a compilation of some of them:
Liberals discover what Republicans have been saying for years
Ari Melber, a talk show host from MSNBC, was extremely concerned about the newfound powers that Musk could have over U.S. elections. During his monologue, Melber said he was very worried that social media platforms “don’t even have to be transparent (…) you could secretly ban one party’s candidate or all of its candidates all of its nominees, or you could just secretly turn down the reach of their stuff and turn up the reach of something else and the rest of us might not even find out about it until after the election.”
These are criticisms that many Republicans would agree with. The issue with Melber’s concerns, however, is that many conservatives have denounced social media for doing the same during the 2020 election, when platforms like Twitter decided to take down the New York Post story, baselessly arguing it could be misinformation. As it is well known today, the Hunter Biden laptop was real.
Twitter not only censured the New York Post for posting the Hunter Biden laptop story, but it also locked the official account of the Trump campaign and of White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany just a few weeks before the election because it reposted the story of the Hunter Biden laptop.
Melber’s worries over the power that big tech has over the democratic process are legitimate. Yet, it is rather interesting he did not notice them during the 2020 election.
More speech is bad for democracy
Of course, one of the most promoted talking points against Musk is that his vision of free speech (Musk has called himself a “free speech absolutist) is fundamentally damaging to a democratic system.
When Musk announced he had the intention to buy Twitter, the columnist for The Washington Post, Max Boot posted that he was “frightened” by the effects a Musk takeover of Twitter would have on American democracy, arguing that “for democracy to survive, we need more content moderation, not less.”
Robert Reich, a professor from Berkely and former cabinet minister, penned an op-ed with the rather convoluted argument that Musk’s vision of free internet is actually the dream of authoritarian leaders around the world like Vladimir Putin, saying that Musk’s arguments to free the internet will make it somehow less accountable and more dangerous than it is now.
It is rather curious for people to argue in favor of defending a liberal democracy while being scared of the effects that free speech (a hallmark of liberal democracies) could have on the stability of the system.
The Musk takeover of Twitter is due to White supremacy
Easily one of the most bizarre takes on Musk’s takeover of Twitter is that it is clearly an attempt to restore white supremacy. Erika D. Smith published a column in the Los Angeles Times arguing that the purchase of Twitter is the “end of Black Twitter” as apparently Musk’s commitment to the idea of free speech will inevitably lead to a rise of white supremacy and would force African-American activists, who the author argues are the bedrock of democracy, to leave the platform altogether.
Shaun King, a progressive activist, posted a Twitter thread saying that Musk’s purchase of the platform “is not about left vs right. King said is worrisome that Musk “wants to create a space where anything can be said about anyone” and criticized that “the richest man of the world, a son of Apartheid, raised by a white nationalist, wants to be sure his speech, and that of other white men, isn’t censored.”
Apparently, being in favor of free speech is a white supremacist concept due to Musk’s origins and the views of his estranged father.
The purchase of Twitter by Musk will surely open serious debates and questions over the future of free speech and its effects on democracy. However, the takes by many liberals and progressives over the last few days have been risible.