December 3, 2023


Your Partner in The Digital Era

Elon Musk’s eyesight for the net is risky nonsense | Robert Reich

The Russian people today know little about Putin’s war on Ukraine due to the fact Putin has blocked their access to the truth, substituting propaganda and lies.

Years in the past, pundits assumed the world wide web would open up a new period of democracy, giving all people access to the reality. But dictators like Putin and demagogues like Trump have shown how naive that assumption was.

At least the US responded to Trump’s lies. Trump had 88 million Twitter followers before Twitter took him off its platform – just two days after the assault on the Capitol, which he provoked, in part, with his tweets. (Trump’s social media accounts were also suspended on Fb, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitch and TikTok.)

These moves had been vital to protect American democracy. But Elon Musk – the richest person in the globe, with 80 million Twitter followers – wasn’t happy. Musk tweeted that US tech organizations should not be acting “as the de facto arbiter of free of charge speech”.

Musk continues to notify his 80 million followers all kinds of issues. I disagree with lots of of his positions, but at any time due to the fact I posted a tweet two years in the past criticizing him for how he handled his Tesla workers he has blocked me – so I simply cannot perspective or post criticisms of his tweets to his followers.

Appears like an odd move for somebody who describes himself as a “free speech absolutist”. Musk advocates free speech but in actuality it’s just about power.

Ability compelled Musk to obtain $2.64bn of Twitter stock, building him the biggest individual shareholder. Final 7 days, Twitter declared that Musk would be becoming a member of Twitter’s board of directors, prompting Musk to assure “significant improvements” in the system.

Sunday evening, even though, it was declared that Musk would not be becoming a member of Twitter’s board. No explanation was presented but it is likely section of a bargaining kabuki dance.

Musk would not have plopped down $2.64bn for nothing at all. If he is not on Twitter’s board, he’s not bound by a “standstill” arrangement in which he pledged to invest in no a lot more than 14.9% of Twitter’s inventory. Musk now faces no restrict on how a lot of Twitter’s stock he can obtain. He’ll buy as substantially as he desires to gain full handle.

What “improvements” does Musk have in intellect for Twitter? Will he use his clout around Twitter to reduce buyers with tens of thousands and thousands of followers from blocking persons who criticize them? I question it.

Will Musk use his clout to permit Trump again on? I dread he will.

Musk has long advocated a libertarian eyesight of an “uncontrolled” world-wide-web. That vision is harmful garbage. There’s no these kinds of animal, and there hardly ever will be.

Someone has to determine on the algorithms in each individual platform – how they are developed, how they evolve, what they reveal and what they hide. Musk has ample energy and revenue to quietly give himself this sort of manage over Twitter.

Musk talks about independence of speech but his authentic ability is flexibility of access – reaching 80 million Twitter followers without having accountability to any individual (including critics like me) – and adequate revenue to obtain himself a seat on Twitter’s board.

Musk has in no way considered that ability will come with responsibility. He’s been unperturbed when his tweets trigger genuine struggling. In the course of his prolonged and storied heritage with Twitter he has threatened journalists and tweeted reckless items.

In March 2020 he tweeted that little ones were “essentially immune” to Covid. He has pushed cryptocurrencies that he’s invested in. When a college or university student began a Twitter account to keep track of Musk’s private airplane, Musk tried and failed to purchase him off, prior to blocking him.

The Securities and Exchange Fee went following Musk after he tweeted that he experienced funding to choose Tesla private, a crystal clear violation of the regulation. Musk paid out a wonderful and agreed to enable lawyers vet potential sensitive tweets, but he has tried out to reverse this necessity.

He has also been brazenly contemptuous of the SEC, tweeting at a single point that the “E” stands for “Elon’s”. (You can guess what the “S” and “C” stand for.) By the way, how does the SEC go soon after Musk’s capability to tweet now that he owns Twitter?

Billionaires like Musk have demonstrated time and once again they contemplate them selves over the regulation. And to a significant extent, they are.

Musk has more than enough prosperity that authorized penalties are no a lot more than slaps on his wrist, and enough ability to management one particular of the most crucial means the general public now receives news. Think about it: immediately after yrs of putting up tweets that skirt the legislation, Musk was presented a seat on Twitter’s board (and is likely now negotiating for even extra clout).

Musk suggests he wants to “free” the internet. But what he definitely aims to do is make it even fewer accountable than it is now, when it’s frequently difficult to discover who is creating the conclusions about how algorithms are intended, who is filling social media with lies, who’s poisoning our minds with pseudo-science and propaganda, and who’s choosing which variations of occasions go viral and which continue to be under wraps.

Make no miscalculation: this is not about freedom. It is about electricity.

In Musk’s vision of Twitter and the online, he’d be the wizard guiding the curtain – projecting on the world’s display screen a phony graphic of a courageous new world empowering anyone.

In fact, that planet would be dominated by the richest and most strong individuals in the globe, who would not be accountable to any individual for details, real truth, science or the popular great.

That is Musk’s dream. And Trump’s. And Putin’s. And the desire of every single dictator, strongman, demagogue and fashionable-working day robber baron on Earth. For the relaxation of us, it would be a brave new nightmare.