Elon Musk Acquires Twitter, Will Take Company Private

"Twitter announced on Monday afternoon that it accepted Elon Musk’s offer to buy the company.... Twitter Board members unanimously accepted the deal." - N. Review

Related at Christian Index: Elon Musk buys Twitter for $44B and will privatize [sic] company And at Relevant: Elon Musk Is Officially Buying Twitter. What Now?  Also, Church Leaders: Elon Musk Buys Twitter, Sparking Conversation About Religious Liberty, Hate Speech

661 reads

There are 9 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Media are throwing the word "privatize" around. The term normally refers to moving enterprises from the public sector (government) to the private sector (shareholders). What Musk plans to do is move an already private company off of the public stock exchange--so shares are not publicly traded. Shares will be held by a select few.

Why this is supposed to be great I don't know, but National Review seems to think it's fantastic. (https://www.nationalreview.com/2022/04/godspeed-to-elon-musk/)

My prediction: social media platforms have to have some restrictions on content. It's unavoidable. No matter how well designed and executed, enforcement of those restrictions is going to have subjective elements and cases of excess and unfairness. Eventually, Twitter will be embroiled in controversy over restrictions on content and who's allowed to post. Given what we know about Elon Musk, we should expect this to be sooner rather than later. Brilliant though he is, the man is... eccentric, and so far it appears he'll make Twitter pretty eccentric.

Will it be better than it is now, on balance? I doubt it. The biggest problem with Twitter isn't biases in content filtering and who it allows to post.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

dgszweda's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Media are throwing the word "privatize" around. The term normally refers to moving enterprises from the public sector (government) to the private sector (shareholders). What Musk plans to do is move an already private company off of the public stock exchange--so shares are not publicly traded. Shares will be held by a select few.

Why this is supposed to be great I don't know, but National Review seems to think it's fantastic. (https://www.nationalreview.com/2022/04/godspeed-to-elon-musk/)

My prediction: social media platforms have to have some restrictions on content. It's unavoidable. No matter how well designed and executed, enforcement of those restrictions is going to have subjective elements and cases of excess and unfairness. Eventually, Twitter will be embroiled in controversy over restrictions on content and who's allowed to post. Given what we know about Elon Musk, we should expect this to be sooner rather than later. Brilliant though he is, the man is... eccentric, and so far it appears he'll make Twitter pretty eccentric.

Will it be better than it is now, on balance? I doubt it. The biggest problem with Twitter isn't biases in content filtering and who it allows to post.

The media is using the term as it is understood in the industry.  Taking a company private, removes it from being traded on a public exchange and having to make its innerworkings public.  You will still have shareholders, but the shares that the holders have are private securities and cannot be traded on an open market (the value is not ascertained through a public model, but a negotiated model between two parties).  The biggest aspect is that the scrutiny is removed on what the shareholders do in disbursements and investments with the company.  The biggest purpose in taking a company private is that the individual shareholders are able to make changes that may not be acceptable in the marketplace in order to drive better long term value.  Elon Musk is very good at this and thus why people are giving him Billions to do it.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron Blumer wrote:

My prediction: social media platforms have to have some restrictions on content. It's unavoidable. No matter how well designed and executed, enforcement of those restrictions is going to have subjective elements and cases of excess and unfairness.

Of course.  No one thinks there will be NO RESTRICTIONS including Elon Musk.  It's just that some of us think that restrictions on content should be the legal ones, namely those that have been described in court cases fleshing out the Constitution's limits on free speech, including "obscenity, defamation, fraud, incitement, fighting words, and speech integral to criminal conduct."  There should be no section 230 protection for a so-called "neutral platform" that censors outside these legal limits.  Any private company can censor what they wish, but then they should not be given the same protections as "common access" carriers.

Personally, I think Musk buying Twitter will prove to be a good thing.  I abandoned my Twitter account over a year ago, shortly following their suppression of the news on Biden's laptop (which they have finally acknowledged was wrong, or at least a problem).  I deactivated my Facebook account at the same time.  Yes, if Elon takes Twitter completely private, there will be less supposed oversight, but he has promised to make the algorithms open-source, so people can see what is restricted and why.  Right now, the algorithms and decisions used to make decisions on content restriction are completely unviewable by the public.  I don't see how Elon could make that any worse for Twitter.

The biggest issue with social media platforms (and I'm leaving out the fact that they are used by fallen humans, so can never be done perfectly) hasn't been the censorship per se, but the fact that when something is censored, the only reason given is "community standards" which are never delineated or made public, and in most cases, no further information is given as to how the content violated the standard that no one can see.  If indeed the algorithms are made public, and the reasons for censorship actually made clear to those whose posts are removed, there will be a massive improvement.

As to the issue with harassment, really all that needs to happen is that the users can use their own filters to remove content they don't want to see, or block users that are harassing them.  Obviously, since these companies are usually ad-driven, they don't always want users to be able to block any content at will, but I have faith that that problem can be solved with enough time and ingenuity.  Allowing filters such as "don't show me content from anyone I haven't personally approved" would be a good start.

Elon won't solve the problem of human depravity, and he may not even believe in that, but I do think he will be an excellent check on the current Silicon Valley tech oligarchy.  That's why they and others are complaining so loudly about his doing this.

Dave Barnhart

David R. Brumbelow's picture

I believe freedom of speech is a great thing.  Previously Twitter was restricting free speech, especially conservative free speech.  Elon Musk promises to stop the censorship.  That is very encouraging and good for America. 

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” -President George Washington

http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2022/02/whats-wrong-with-communism.html

David R. Brumbelow

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The free speech angle is an interesting one. Historically, Americans have not believed that businesses owe anyone free speech. The Constitution limits the government from violating free speech. But do we encourage people say whatever they like at work, or church, or in our homes?

As a Christian, I value truth more than I value freedom, though I do value both...  but back to the question of free speech and businesses:  getting closer to a good parallel, historically we haven't viewed book and magazine publishers as obligated to publish views contrary to their own. So--we not only have no history of 'free speech' in business settings, but we don't even have it in publishing businesses.

We need to acknowledge what the norm is before we advocate departing from it.

That said, there are some good reasons to depart from it. But let's be clear: demanding free speech from nongovernmental entities is not a very conservative thing to do--because "free speech" has long included the right of corporations to say and not say what they want to, not just individuals.

Still, it might be necessary.

The reason is that technology has brought us a dramatically different kind of publishing, and the power of it is just too great for the old rules of freedom. The case can be made that these ubiquitous social media entities are more like power utilities where the lack of options demands a lot more regulations.

I don't know.

Elon Musk will certainly restrict speech on Twitter. The rules he rolls out will be different. Whether they're more fair or just more pleasing to a particular constituency remains to be seen. He does seem more committed to transparency, so that's a plus. But how much of that is rhetorical?

I love what he's doing with SpaceX. I'm less confident he'll achieve in the social media biz.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Larry's picture

Moderator

These "free speech" principles of which Aaron speaks have recently been under attack in private businesses such as bakers, florists, and photographers (BFGs). Those who most praise the censorship of Twitter and taken the "business" angle of argument ("Twitter is a business who can do what they want") have most decried the "censorship" of the BFGs and declared that if you are going to offer a public service, you can't refuse to say something that a customer wants to say on your platform or through your business. Unfortunately, this hypocrisy is not being talked about enough or loudly enough. If Twitter can refuse to allow certain things to be said on its product, a baker, a florist, or a photographer has the same right. If a BFG cannot censor a customer, the Twitter can't either.

We also need to remember that much of what Twitter and other platforms censored as "misinformation" was actually true. 

Who knows what Musk will actually change. There is no doubt that Twitter is a very liberal organization. But the principles here run far deeper. 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron Blumer wrote:

We need to acknowledge what the norm is before we advocate departing from it.

That said, there are some good reasons to depart from it. But let's be clear: demanding free speech from nongovernmental entities is not a very conservative thing to do--because "free speech" has long included the right of corporations to say and not say what they want to, not just individuals.

Still, it might be necessary.

The reason is that technology has brought us a dramatically different kind of publishing, and the power of it is just too great for the old rules of freedom. The case can be made that these ubiquitous social media entities are more like power utilities where the lack of options demands a lot more regulations.

I don't know.

I think you have nailed where the confusion in thinking is.  The problem isn't that private companies censor, as I wrote above, since they certainly can censor their own speech as a non-government entity.  It's that they can do so while still claiming to be "platforms" rather than content creators, and still get government protection under Section 230.  If that protection were altered to require that only illegal speech be censored to maintain the cover provided by Section 230, then companies would have to make a clear decision whether they want to censor and be considered a private entity, or be a "common access" platform and allow everything legal.

You can also see this being fought with Gmail recently.  Some on the right are complaining that right-leaning political email gets sent to spam at approximately twice the rate of left-leaning political email.  Google claims that users can train their own spam filters, but of course, that doesn't answer the question of how the defaults are set, or that most people don't even try to set or tune their own filters.  But anyway, is Gmail a neutral "platform," or should it be OK for them to censor email since Google is not a government organization?  The lines are not as clear as people would like.

I'm still of the opinion that if the private company gets the protection of law making them extremely hard to hold to account by the threat of lawsuits when they can still censor at will, then you do, in effect, have the government interfering in speech.  I would like to see Section 230 amended, rather than trying to make a private company adhere to Constitutional free speech.  If a company wants to be considered a platform, rather than a content creator, and thus claim the legal protection, in that case, they should have to adhere to the government free speech standards, like any common carrier.

Dave Barnhart

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

@Dave: that does sound like the best set of tradeoffs. 

Whatever happens, we'll be blazing new legal trails as a nation in the coming years.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.