Did Elon Musk just save free speech?

Posted on April 9, 2022


By Jon Miltimore.

This weekend, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made comments that seem to confirm some of my suspicions.

For some time I’ve been wondering if Dorsey is waking up quietly (those tweets about bitcoin, inflation and Murray Rothbard haven’t gone unnoticed – at least not by us). And those comments from Saturday indicate that, like Dr. Frankenstein, he’s beginning to see the monster he’s created.

“The golden days of Usenet, IRC, the Web…and even email (with PGP)…were amazing. The centralization of enterprise discovery and identity has really damaged the internet,” a tweeted Dorsey. “I realize that I am partly to blame, and I regret it.”

This awareness is important but also complex. Corporate censorship is a thorny issue for libertarians, who on the one hand support free speech but on the other recognize the right of private companies such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to remove content and users for reasons they want, even if it creates a culture that stifles research, debate and expression.

Unfortunately, this is precisely the culture that Big Tech has created – largely due to corporate America’s abandonment of Friedman’s doctrine, which held that corporate social responsibility rests with corporate shareholders, not executives. . Dorsey seems to have understood this.

It’s no exaggeration to say that I felt a sense of desperation over Big Tech’s censorship, especially during the pandemic. There’s something dark and dystopian about a handful of companies working directly with the government censoring and blocking people for sharing “misinformation”.

Dorsey’s reflection seemed like a step in the right direction for a tricky question – admitting the problem is the first step on the road to recovery. Then something much bigger happened.

On Monday, news broke that Tesla founder Elon Musk had acquired a 9.2% stake in Twitter. News of the purchase sent Twitter’s stock price skyrocketing in pre-market trades. More importantly, this purchase makes Musk the largest shareholder in the company.

This is a significant event, as prior to the news of the purchase, rumors had swirled that Musk might be eyeing Twitter to help correct the direction of free speech.

“Freedom of expression is essential to the proper functioning of a democracy”, tweeted Musk on March 25, “Do you think Twitter strictly adheres to this principle? “.

Responses to Elon Musk’s poll were one-sided – more than 70% of two million voters answered ‘no’ – and analysts believe Musk’s purchase is proof he intends to play an active role in the management of Twitter.

Dan Ives, technology analyst at Wedbush Securities, told CNN:

I think he intends to take an active role and force change at Twitter. It’s a shot through the arc at Twitter’s board and leadership team to start discussions“.

This is significant because, as Dorsey alluded to, the internet has been centralized under the umbrella of a handful of corporations, making it easy for the government to effectively outsource censorship of problematic speech, usually under the guise of protecting Americans against disinformation where the hate speech.

So far, Big Tech has mostly played the game with the big government. But Dorsey and Musk seem to recognize that something is rotten in Silicon Valley. And one of them, at least, seems to be taking steps to fix it. This is vitally important, because freedom of expression is integral to freedom and to the human search for truth.

…if we really want to understand why freedom is necessary in a civilized society,” the great American reporter Walter Lippman once observed, “we must begin by realizing that because freedom of discussion enhances our own opinions, the freedoms of other men are our own vital necessity.

For years, as Big Tech censorship grew more aggressive, freedom champions insisted that the market was the solution to the problem, not the government.

Elon Musk’s big Twitter purchase could be exactly what we’ve been waiting for.

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Translation Justine Colinet for Counterpoints

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