Elon Musk’s vision of the internet is dangerous nonsense | Robert Reich





The Russian people know little about Putin’s war against Ukraine because Putin has blocked their access to the truth and replaced propaganda and lies.

Years ago, experts assumed that the Internet would open up a new era of democracy and give everyone access to the truth. 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 Capitol attack, which he partially provoked with his tweets. (Trump’s social media accounts were also suspended on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitch, and TikTok.)

These steps were necessary to protect American democracy. But Elon Musk — the richest man in the world, with 80 million Twitter followers — wasn’t happy. Musk tweeted that US tech companies should not act “as the de facto arbiter of free speech”.

Musk continues to tell his 80 million followers everything. I disagree with many of his views, but since I posted a tweet two years ago criticizing him for the way he treated his Tesla employees, he’s blocked me – so I can’t view criticisms of his tweets or post to his followers.

It seems an odd move for someone who describes himself as an “absolutist of free speech.” Musk advocates freedom of speech, but in reality it is all about power.

Power forced Musk to buy $2.64 billion in Twitter stock, making him the largest individual shareholder. Last week, Twitter announced that Musk would join Twitter’s board of directors, prompting Musk to promise “significant improvements” to the platform.

However, Sunday evening it was announced that Musk would… not join the Twitter board. No reason was given, but it is probably part of a negotiation kabuki dance.

Musk wouldn’t have crashed $2.64 billion for nothing. If he is not on Twitter’s board, he is not bound by a “standstill” agreement in which he pledged not to buy more than 14.9% of Twitter’s shares. Musk now faces no limit on how much of Twitter’s stock he can buy. He will buy as much as he needs to gain total control.

What “improvements” does Musk have in mind for Twitter? Will he use his influence through Twitter to prevent users with tens of millions of followers from blocking those who criticize them? I doubt it.

Will Musk Use His Influence to Get Trump Back on the Phone? I fear he will.

Musk has long advocated a libertarian vision of an “uncontrolled” internet. That view is dangerous nonsense. Such an animal does not exist and never will be.

Someone has to decide on the algorithms on each platform – how they are designed, how they evolve, what they reveal and what they hide. Musk has enough power and money to give quietly himself this kind of control over Twitter.

Musk Talks About Freedom Of Speech, But His Real Power Is Freedom Of to achieve – reaching 80 million Twitter followers with no accountability to anyone (including critics like me) – and enough money to buy a seat on the Twitter board.

Musk has never believed that power comes with responsibility. He is imperturbable when his tweets cause real suffering. During his long and storied history with Twitter, he has threatened journalists and tweeted recklessly.

In March 2020, he tweeted that children were “essentially immune” to Covid. He has been pushing cryptocurrencies in which he has invested. When a student started a Twitter account to track Musk’s private jet, Musk tried to buy it off before blocking it.

The Securities and Exchange Commission went after Musk after he tweeted that he had money to take Tesla private, a clear violation of the law. Musk paid a fine and agreed to let lawyers investigate future sensitive tweets, but he has tried to overturn the demand.

He also openly despised the SEC, at one point tweeting that the “E” stands for “Elon’s”. (You can guess what the “S” and “C” stand for.) By the way, how is the SEC handling Musk’s ability to tweet now that he owns Twitter?

Billionaires like Musk have shown time and again that they consider themselves above the law. And for the most part they are.

Musk has enough wealth that legal penalties are little more than a slap on the wrist, and enough power to control one of the major ways the public receives news today. Think about it: After years of posting tweets that violate the law, Musk landed a seat on Twitter’s board (and is probably now negotiating for even more clout).

Musk says he wants to “liberate” the internet. But what he really wants to do is make it even less accountable than it is now, when it’s often impossible to discover who makes the decisions about how algorithms are designed, who fills social media with lies, who poisons our minds with pseudo- science and propaganda, and who decides which versions of events go viral and which remain secret.

Make no mistake, this is not about freedom. It’s about power.

In Musk’s take on Twitter and the Internet, he would be the wizard behind the curtain – projecting onto the screen of the world a fake image of a brave new world that empowers everyone.

In reality, that world would be dominated by the richest and most powerful people in the world, who would be accountable to no one for facts, truth, science, or the common good.

That’s Musk’s dream. And Trump’s. And Putin’s. And the dream of every dictator, strongman, demagogue and modern day robber baron on Earth. For the rest of us, it would be a brave new nightmare.




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