The current richest person in the world, just like all the world’s media giants, now owns a big platform that can make his voice reach all the people more clearly than ever. The purchase of Twitter and its privatization by Elon Musk could not only be effective in changing the direction of public opinion, but also raise concerns about the influence of politicians.
Ever since mass media has existed, the rich have used it to reflect their interests. During the newspaper era, William Randolph Hearst admitted that he was responsible for the Spanish-American War. In the era of cable television, Rupert Murdoch used Fox to change the views of all political conservatives around the world. And now in the era of social media, Elon Musk probably wants to have that kind of impact with his $44 billion deal.
Musk has been a professional Twitter user for about a decade and has used the platform to promote Tesla electric cars and SpaceX space rockets and attack his critics. With these activities, he has created a large audience for himself in this social network. So now that he’s bought Twitter, the richest man in the world has a tool that can be more powerful than any other traditional media in terms of influencing public opinion.
Musk’s purchase of Twitter is likely to go some way to controlling his public image and, of course, combating critics. However, analysts and experts warn that placing a communication medium with this level of power in the hands of one person can have large and unexpected consequences.
Elon Musk turned away from traditional media
In the first days of working in Tesla and SpaceX, Musk enthusiastically welcomed the attention of the media, and in fact, with their help, he was able to build his own media personality and make his name known to the public as a great and successful entrepreneur in the field of clean technologies and aerospace. However, Musk has been frustrated with news coverage, particularly about Tesla, in recent years, calling it biased and inaccurate.
He went from someone who said, “I’d like to die on Mars, but not during a spaceship landing,” to someone who said, “The self-righteous hypocrites of the big media companies who claim to tell the truth but only tell as much truth as they cover the lies.” to cover up, is the reason why people don’t respect them anymore.”
But over time, Elon Musk realized that Twitter can be a free platform to advertise Tesla cars, raise funds for Boring Company and promote SpaceX by sharing exciting videos of its rockets landing. He also used the platform to attack stories that were bad about Tesla. All these things made this successful entrepreneur gather more than 113 million followers in recent years.
Currently, Elon Musk’s Twitter page has practically become Tesla’s public relations unit, and SpaceX spokespeople keep referring reporters to his tweets instead of making comments themselves. Buying Twitter can undoubtedly help Musk in this regard. But the concerns heard among advocates of freedom of speech and freedom of the press are mainly not about turning the social network into a communication arm of Elon Musk’s companies, but about whether he will use this platform to silence the voices of his opponents and amplify the voices of others. His supporters will use it or not.
Controlling power by one person is dangerous
Jamil Jaffer, executive director of the Knight Institute on the First Amendment at Columbia University, said Twitter could threaten democratic values if a private actor decided what voices should be heard and what ideas should be considered. According to Jafar, such great power should never be in the hands of a private company.
These statements are reminiscent of the concerns of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in April, which was published at the same time as the news of Musk’s deal to buy Twitter. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said: “We should be concerned that powerful centralized actors, whether it’s the government or any other wealthy individual — even if it’s an ACLU member — are exercising this level of control over the boundaries of online political conversation. take over.”
The number of Twitter users is less than 250 million active users, less than half of Instagram with 700 million or Facebook with 2 billion. In addition, according to the Pew Research Center, only about a quarter of Americans use this social network. But among the users of this platform, you can see politicians, global media and prominent figures of the world. Therefore, almost everyone uses this service to get information about the latest news and to move public opinion.
Jameel Jeffer and Emma Lanso, director of the Free Expression Project at the Center for American Democracy and Technology, say they’re excited to see how Musk ultimately changes Twitter’s content management system, how it deals with harassment on the social network, and how It implements its new rules. Their main prediction is that the website will be more resilient to extremist, misleading, racist and offensive content in the future.
“Twitter’s algorithms before that,” Lanso says [ماسک] buy it, apparently they helped him a lot to be heard and maybe he uses the same tool to make his voice louder. I’m more concerned about the potential systemic effects that a service like Twitter could have. The effect of this transaction can even more generally determine what conversations will be allowed on the service. Who decides that people’s words and approaches are accepted?”
Elon Musk’s recent decision to fire Twitter’s top executives is a dangerous sign as the platform tries to improve its handling of harassment, misinformation and election manipulation. Lanceo says:[ایلان ماسک] He’s talked about wanting the service to be freer and more open, but at the same time he’s told advertisers, ‘Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a hellhole for free speech.'”
Lanso believes that it is difficult to conclude from Musk’s previous statements what the trust and safety of content will be like in the future of Twitter or how content control will be done during his time.
Can foreign governments exercise power over Twitter?
One of the other concerns of supporters of freedom of speech and democracy is the influence of non-democratic and anti-freedom governments on Elon Musk and Twitter. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, who is unlikely to be a supporter of democratic values, paid Musk $1.9 billion to buy Twitter and is now the company’s second largest investor. Qatar Investment Fund contributed 375 million dollars in this transaction.
The investment of Middle Eastern countries has even caused the voices of people like Senator Chris Murphy to come out and demand the investigation of this deal from the point of view of American national security by the Commission on Foreign Investments (CFIUS).
Musk, who needs a large amount of raw materials for Tesla batteries, including nickel, from Russia, suggested a few weeks ago that Russia and Ukraine reconcile and end the war. Although he had previously invited “Vladimir Putin” to a one-on-one battle, he mostly sided with the Kremlin in his compromise proposal.
Also, many experts do not know whether the Chinese government, which has already blocked access to Twitter on its soil, will be able to influence Musk and reduce criticism of his policies on the platform. Because this country is one of the biggest sources of income for Tesla. Elon Musk’s company is considered to be the only foreign car manufacturing company in China that has been able to have its own factories without having to cooperate with domestic companies in this country.
“Musk wants to sell millions of Teslas around the world, including in China, Russia, Brazil, Turkey and India, and all of these governments have their own rigid beliefs about how to treat free speech on Twitter and their definition of misleading information,” Jaffer says. It is also different. They come to Musk and say, ‘These words that you didn’t delete are problematic in our opinion’ or ‘These anonymous users who are critical of our policies are problematic in our opinion.’ “Musk will understand these messages because he will be clearly told that if he does what they ask, he will have to face the consequences.”
In addition, there are questions about the domestic politics of the United States for the new CEO of Twitter. Although Musk has said he has no specific political affiliation, he recently claimed that he now considers himself more of a Republican, voting for them and supporting Ron DeSantis, the conservative governor of Florida who is likely to run for president in 2024. will be. He also said in June that he was willing to spend up to $25 million to support “centrist” political candidates.
Twitter is in chaos with Elon Musk
One of Musk’s controversial decisions in the first days of Twitter’s tenure was his plan to change the way blue ticks were presented to users. This system, which used to approve well-known figures and politicians in order to authenticate their identity, according to the new owner of this company, represented a “lord and serf system”.
Now, it has been decided that the blue tick will be available to all users who are willing to pay $8 per month for the premium subscription of this social network as part of the Twitter Blue service. “Now anyone who wants a tick, including those looking to spread misinformation, can pay to get the feature,” Lanso says. “The risk is the potential for confusion for people who come to Twitter to get news and information and see content that appears to be authentic because someone paid for the blue tick.”
Elon Musk’s chaotic management style only adds to the confusion. Until now, the blue tick has been used to indicate that when you see a post from a known person, you can use this sign to confirm that he or she has published this content. Now, of course, it has been said that this social network wants to solve this problem through a new label.
On the other hand, the employees of this company have been confused since the arrival of Musk. In addition to the many who are now out of a job, those who are still employed at Twitter do not know where the future will lead.
But for Elon Musk, all these events are insignificant compared to the situation he got from buying Twitter. Controlling a powerful system for news delivery, political coverage and information interpretation clearly benefits him. And it seems that despite all the trouble that this social network can cause for Musk, he finally got what he wanted.