Opinion: Elon Musk does not own Twitter users

photo by: Contributed

Froma Harrop

A day without Elon Musk is an OK day. Not that I don’t like him. He’s a business genius, after all, who launched the electric-vehicle future. He helped preserve online access in a battered Ukraine by sending over 12,000 Starlink terminals that work with orbiting satellites. Ukraine thanked him for that.

Ukraine was less enthusiastic about Musk’s tweeted “peace plan,” which included surrendering much of its occupied land to Russia. Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany responded with a vulgar suggestion.

Point is, Musk may be a techno-wizard and the world’s richest human. But that doesn’t make him the globe-trotting wise man able to resolve the knottiest political tensions. Of course, he can put off-the-top-of-his-head observations on Twitter, the social media giant he seems about to buy. Lots of smart people do.

But his vow that if/when he becomes Twitter boss he will end the moderation policies that got Donald Trump thrown off the platform is problematic from a business model standpoint. Oh, that may sound swell to a chest-pounding libertarian. And true, Twitter would be Musk’s party to which he could invite anyone to say almost anything, however repulsive, false or dangerous.

What Musk seems to miss, apart from a sense of civic responsibility, is this: No one has to be on Twitter. Letting Trump and his thuggy minions back on would ruin the neighborhood. Twitter would turn into a “right-wing cesspool,” as a writer for Vanity Fair put it.

When Trump was booted off Twitter after the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol, he started his own social media platform, Truth Social. Trump had 90 million followers on Twitter but only 4 million on Truth Social.

Now, why would that be? The reason is that all those liberals, moderates and sane conservatives that Trump was trolling on Twitter give a very wide berth to Truth Social. No one goes to a fight with only one guy in the ring.

The right complains that Twitter unfairly censors its political opinions. Not true. The right may not have a monopoly on idiocy, but it does have a commanding market share — the crowning example being dangerous conspiracy theories about the 2020 election having been stolen.

Interesting that so-called conservatives in the Texas Legislature passed a law that would stop tech companies from banning commentary on the basis of political viewpoint. They seem to have missed the lecture on the rights of private ownership.

Christopher Cox, a former Republican congressman from California, says he sympathizes with conservative angst over some of the platforms’ decisions. But as a board member of Netchoice, a tech industry lobbying group, Cox says, “Politicians exercising control over the political speech of others is a very dangerous recipe.”

You can’t own the libs if the libs have left the premises. And that lack of customers may be a big reason Truth Social may be going the way of Trump Steaks, Trump University and the six bankrupt Trump casinos.

A Twitter that becomes a right-wing cesspool transforms itself into a Truth Social. Finding a proper balance for content moderation is not easy to do, but understand this: A site bursting with lunatics hollering QAnon crap would be avoided by the very people it should want.

As for the world’s richest man, Musk should know that he does not get to dominate my attention for free. If he’s interested in paying me to listen to everything he has to say, he should give me a call. I’m open to negotiation. But he should know: It will cost him.

Elon Musk may be a tech superman, but a day without him is still an OK day. Same goes for a day without Twitter.

— Froma Harrop is a syndicated columnist with Creators.


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.