Even for Twitter the reaction is bizarre to the extreme
Wow. The big news came, simple and straightforward, on Monday afternoon. Eastern time. From the official press release: “Twitter, Inc. (NYSE: TWTR) today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by an entity wholly owned by Elon Musk, for $54.20 per share in cash in a transaction”
What came next was a tsunami of extreme emotions – mostly negative by casual observation. The happiest seemed to be MAGA dreamers that somehow think that Elon Musk will be all about enabling Trump and his minions to get back into social media shenanigans, a.k.a. “free speech’. Which is, to put it mildly, doubtful.
To get the color of this intense reaction here are just a few example headlines:
Oddly, the most ferocious detractors of this deal are the “left” and those that are also believing the nonsense that somehow this is a big win for the right and for Trump (huh?) and therefore – the friend of my enemy is my enemy, or some such thing.
“Why the oligarch Elon Musk is a threat to independent media’
and so on
Then the oddly stilted semi-jubilation from the right:
Naturally, Trump says he would not tweet again even if invited since he has his own useless and failed app. This is the basic problem of 90% of the reactions – the more extreme they are the more ridiculous the assumptions as to what Elon Musk will actually do.
Bots, often controlled by foreign actors, were the issue in 2020, not the tweets by actual people
If you were on twitter in 2020 during the run-up to the election, or in 2016 for that matter, the biggest issue was not the real tweets from Trump and others of his ilk, no matter how stupid and deranged those tweets were.
It was, instead, the thousands of fake accounts amplifying the “message” and creating a wall of lies and disinformation. Those bots would attack any anti-Trump or Pro-Biden (or Pro-Hillary) tweets and applaud all pro-Trump messages with likes, re-tweets etc. And they still exist to today.
They were ridiculously obvious as fake, for anyone who bothered to check, but the massive number and the fact they they were allowed to run-rampant made this stupid, primitive method of perverting actual free speech and behavior bizarrely successful.
This is just one small point. The idea that Elon Musk bought Twitter so that he can re-instate Trump and his bot-army goes against literally everything that is known about him as well as what he has actually said.
Of course anyone can say that Musk is not sincere, etc. But stating unequivocally that he will defeat the bots is a step in the right direction. Bots and fake accounts are epidemic in all social media and are likely tolerated for nefarious reasons – the least negative of which would be that it’s too expensive to care.
The fact that he would make mention of the “shadow ban council” also shows an awareness of the problems associated with algorithms that have agendas that punish and shadow ban at the whim of those in charge as being important- < it is > – that’s a huge plus, at least in terms of transparency or dialog about actual problems that exist.
And let’s not forget that Elon Musk is not beholden to a specific political party (everyone accuses him of being on the other side or of being a libertarian, and that maybe a good fit for some of his expressed views, but he has not specifically aligned himself with a particular party).
What this all boils down to – as alluded to in the title, is that there’s a strong sense that nearly all these opinions and much of the outrage is dead wrong about what will actually happen.
Can Elon Musk ‘Fix’ Twitter?
It would be equally insane, however, to assume that anyone, even the world’s richest person, can just buy Twitter, or any other huge tech platform (Web2 platform) and then fix all the problems.
Can anyone even agree on what Twitter is or what it should be? And so many of the problems that twitter has are baked-in to the whole huge-Web2-platform-defacto-monopoly thing that makes life online so frustrating and, at times, hopeless.
But what a private company, run by a “brash” gazillionaire is, at least, is something different. Well, sort of. That’s where it comes down to a probably crazy experiment in just how much worse can it get… Zuckerberg, Bezos, the Google Twins? Tough acts to follow?
Some have pointed out that Elon Musk will have even more power and control over Twitter than, for example, Zuckerberg has over FaceBook-er-Meta. And that is, for some, a scary and infuriating concept. On the other hand, what if more control, in the hands of someone who at least appears to have a sincere desire to see Twitter succeed as a “Town Square” and communication tool for humanity is actually what it takes to get things on the road to betterville…?
It’s hard to give a guy with $350 billion the benefit of the doubt, I get it
In other words, instead of seeing Twitter as a battleground between left and right, where one or the other should “win”, there is at least the possibility that Elon Musk sees it as much more than that.
That he sees it a bit closer to what it was created to be – a tool for people to communicate is a novel way.
Call it micro-blogging or shit-posting or memeifycation of life or what you will, the idea is, that if it were possible to create a tool that did indeed allow and even encourage actual online free speech is one that could at least be an experiment worth trying.
Is ‘this guy’ the right person to do it? Maybe not. Is a public company, with the explicit primary goal of enriching shareholders a better way? Not so far in any known example.
In fact this seems to be the ‘secret’ that is hiding in plain sight, that an altruistic goal by a super-rich private individual who decides to take over a social media company, to try to do something never done before – might actually be exactly what it takes to begin a new way for people to communicate online.
And, regardless of how skeptical we may be of that idea, the fact is that extreme change is urgently needed – leads to the reality that anything new and different should at least be tolerated and tried before it is condemned and attacked.
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