The richest man on Earth made a move many can only dream of, buying 9.2 percent of Twitter’s shares for an easy $3 billion, making him the primary shareholder in the social media company, then joined the board where it is expected he will make changes in favor of free speech.
In a move that is sure to shake up the ongoing war between free speech advocates and social media companies, Musk, a frequent critic of Big Tech, joined Twitter’s board on Tuesday. Musk’s presence on the board could signal big changes to Twitter, which may have already kicked off on Monday when Musk tweeted a poll asking if users want an edit button added to allow them to fix tweets. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal responded by asking users to please vote carefully because the consequences of the poll will be important.
An edit button, however, is the least of the possible changes to the platform that could come with Musk’s move. Agrawal and Musk, a self-proclaimed free speech absolutist, have wildly different views on censorship on the platform. Agrawal has stated,
“Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment, but our role is to serve a healthy public conversation and our moves are reflective of things that we believe lead to a healthier public conversation. The kinds of things that we do to work about this is to focus less on thinking about free speech, but thinking about how the times have changed. One of the changes today that we see is speech is easy on the internet. Most people can speak. Where our role is particularly emphasized is who can be heard.”
Musk, however, has been a staunch critic of Twitter’s free speech policies, which likely prompted his buying the shares. On March 25, Musk tweeted, “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?”
Out of the 2 million respondents, over 70 percent answered “no.” The next day Musk said, “Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy. What should be done?” He followed up, “Is a new platform needed?”
Earlier in the month, Musk announced that he would not stop Russian news sources from using his Starlink satellite Internet connection, tweeting, “Starlink has been told by some governments (not Ukraine) to block Russian news sources. We will not do so unless at gunpoint. Sorry to be a free speech absolutist.”
Just two weeks ago Twitter shut down multiple users for calling Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, who is transgender, a man. One of those accounts was the satire site The Babylon Bee. Musk is a known fan of the Bee, and CEO Seth Dillon said that Musk reached out to them before buying the shares.
Dillon today tweeted, “Musk reached out to us before he polled his followers about Twitter’s commitment to free speech. He wanted to confirm that we had, in fact, been suspended. He even mused on that call that he might need to buy Twitter. Now he’s the largest shareholder and has a seat on the board.”
It isn’t just speech issues that Musk is worried about but “wokeness” in general. Musk recently discussed the radical ideology during a sit-down with the Babylon Bee, saying,
“[Wokeness] is a prevalent mind virus and arguably one of the biggest threats to modern civilization. So, do we want a humorless, a society that is simply rife with condemnation and hate basically? At its heart, wokeness is divisive, exclusionary, and hateful. It basically gives mean people a reason, it gives them a shield to be mean and cruel, armored in false virtue.”
Musk joining the board of Twitter can only be good for free speech. He is doing what billionaires on the left have done for years: use their money to influence society. Only in Musk’s case it will hopefully be beneficial. He saw a disturbing trend of censorship and is stepping in.
What Musk will do — and to the degree to which we can expect the woke left to attack him going forward — remains to be seen, but it is clear that he was pondering how to fix the problem weeks ago. Twitter has routinely censored dissent on various issues and that propensity has only been increasing. Musk’s decision to step up and do something about it shows that Big Tech’s lack of respect for the First Amendment and the free flow of information may finally be circling around to bite them.