Elon Musk offered to buy every Twitter share for $54.20, representing a 54% increase in price per share since the day prior to his first large purchases of stock in the company in late January, not the 9% share that he bought last week. The stock is currently valued at $45,85 as of yesterday’s close of trading. The initial offer will send an electric bolt through the social media community but also represents the most aggressive use of aggregated power and wealth in a single individual yet.
If his offer is successful, it puts Twitter’s valuation at $43 billion.
According to the New York Times:
In the filing, Mr. Musk said “I don’t have confidence in management” and that he couldn’t make the changes he wanted in the public market.
If the offer is not accepted, Mr. Musk said, he would “need to reconsider my position as a shareholder,” according to a letter sent to Bret Taylor, Twitter’s chair, on April 13 and enclosed in the filing. “Twitter has extraordinary potential. I will unlock it.”
There is very little doubt that Musk’s management skills might make Twitter more dynamic, less stale, and add value to the company. But given Musk’s statements, it truly seems as though Musk has been trapped within a conservative bubble, or at least the whining about free speech bubble, and doesn’t understand the evolution of Twitter’s rules regarding posts and the social responsibility that comes along with being a functional monopoly. It is rather shocking that a man known as one of the most brilliant minds on earth would dive in without (apparently) understanding the dynamic which has caused the company to come under fire from certain segments of society.
Musk is under the impression that Twitter is a threat to “free speech.”
Twitter allows free speech. Donald Trump Jr. still has his account, and Lauren Boebert still has an account. Donald Trump himself essentially has access to Twitter through his spokesperson Liz Harrington who tweets all his statements. It is not Twitter’s fault that the posts promoting fake cures, tweets putting lives in danger, those that are disgustingly racist, and tweets that incite violence seem to primarily come from the conservative side of the political spectrum. Perhaps if Musk gains control of the company and takes on the personal liability that accompanies outrageous claims to cure disease, lies about politicians that sway elections, or tweets that organize and encourage violent uprisings, he might gain an appreciation for why a private company has a responsibility to keep dangerous elements off what would be his personal platform.
“I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy,” Mr. Musk said in the letter to Mr. Taylor sent on April 13.
“However, since making my investment I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form,” he wrote. “Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.
The two paragraphs belie how little Musk understands the dynamic, which is inevitable when one’s sympathies lie with a side that believes (wrongly) that Twitter has locked down on its free speech because of its political views.
Twitter may need some transformation, and Musk is one of the most visionary minds of our time. But Twitter’s issues have nothing to do with the rules as applied to posting hate speech, speech promoting violence, etc. As I have always written, as considered a private company’s responsibility, Walmart would remove a man from its parking lot if he was holding up a racist sign or one encouraging violence. Walmart would remove a man standing beside its pharmacy, saying that it is withholding the only cure for COVID, Ivermectin. Twitter utilizes the same rationale but with a greater moral imperative, given its monopolistic role in this form of social media.
The other terrifying aspect of the potential deal is a lesson that I’ve been preaching for over two years now, and that is the danger in allowing single individuals to accumulate wealth such that they are far more powerful than most nations. A person might be tempted to say, “Well, that’s capitalism,” but it’s not, it’s the opposite. The United States has allowed functioning monopolies since it lost its case against Microsoft nearly 30 years ago and it is the power of monopolies that has allowed the levels of wealth we’ve seen.
The current dynamic with respect to the masters of the universe wealth always accompanies emerging technology, whether it was Rockefeller with Standard Oil and the emergence of the combustion engine, “robber barrons” owning railroad routes that also represented emerging technology. or Bell Telephone once private telephones were considered a domestic necessity. Adam Smith anticipated such monopolies and was the first to say that his proposed system could only work with strong regulation, including anti-trust provisions.
If Musk gains control of Twitter, society should be less concerned with what Musk does with the rules – for which he’ll likely gain a quick appreciation – but that one man would now control the leading electric car company in the world, more problematically, he would control the country’s access to space and thus significant control of our emerging satellite infrastructure, and the only real social media platform of Twitter’s type, a company whose primary asset is nothing more than being the one everyone else uses.
Allowing any one person to control that much power actually hinders creativity in business and can provide the jumping-off point for a personal “war” of values. Were Adam Smith alive today, and if the United States had a functioning anti-trust division, Facebook, Twitter, and Google would be smashed into twenty pieces, each with the same rules given the robber barons and Bell Telephone, complete compatibility of technology across all platforms, and the freedom to develop different rules, memberships, groups, and emerging technology. The railroads were built with uniform tracks and it should be the same with platform access.
This is not a new problem. The fix would be simple if the Supreme Court had not ruled that money is speech. Elon Musk need not fear a Teddy Roosevelt running in 2024. What is likely, however, is that if Musk succeeds and finds himself suddenly responsible for the impact of every tweet on what is now his monopoly, the rules might look remarkably similar to what they are now, and “free speech” will still exist on Twitter.
Jason Miciak believes a day without learning is a day not lived. He is a political writer, features writer, author, and attorney. He is a Canadian-born dual citizen who spent his teen and college years in the Pacific Northwest and has since lived in seven states. He now enjoys life as a single dad of a young girl, writing from the beaches of the Gulf Coast. He loves crafting his flower pots, cooking, while also studying scientific philosophy, religion, and non-math principles behind quantum mechanics and cosmology. Please feel free to contact for speaking engagements or any concerns.
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