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Digital Town Square Doesn’t Need a New Sheriff

Earlier this month, the billionaire businessman and loose-cannon Tesla and SpaceX icon Elon Musk persuaded Twitter's reluctant board members to sell him the social media company for $44 billion. History shows Mr. Musk seems to have an incredible connection with chaos. This corporate raid has also fast turned into the “will he or won’t he” flavor of the month.

Before we jump into the Twitter takeover story, it makes sense to take a quick peek into Mr Musk and the various controversies he has spawned. From peddling doubts around the efficacy of Covid vaccination to his 90million+ followers on Twitter to allegedly paying $250,000 to a former employee to have her sign an NDA and stay silent about a sexual harassment - from making racist jokes online to cover-up of worker injuries - Elon Musk has invited controversies for long.

Musk now wants to start his own social media platform. Given his belief in Twitter being the “digital town square” of the internet, no wonder he offered $44 billion to buy out the platform. His aim is to protect free speech because he views Twitter as a platform that censors people. That’s quite ironic given that Musk’s own tweets have compared the Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal to Joseph Stalin and gotten away with it!

Yes, Twitter has suspended individuals like former President Trump, because of hateful conduct on the platform. But that’s no infringement on free speech. Musk further wants to do away with pseudonyms and anonymous users in general. While combating bots may help mitigate spam, banning anonymous users or users under pseudonyms will spell the death for free speech on the platform. Many marginalized folks whose views differ from those in power - many of whom are Hyphenated Americans - need the protection of pseudonyms etc to express their opinion.

I don’t know if Elon Musk will truly end up buying Twitter or not. But for the sake of free speech - one fervently hopes that he doesn’t. For Elon Musk, the Twitter bid is likely just another investment deal. While he has stated he doesn’t care about the deal economics, that’s a bit hard to digest for a $44 billion deal. And as for his content moderation ideas or lack thereof - let those just remain as ideas. Twitter will remain better off without Elon Musk.

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