It looks like Elon Musk might not be buying Twitter after all.
The Associated Press reported in last weekend’s edition of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette that the mogul said he was ending his $44 billion takeover deal to acquire the social media platform. .
The case will likely head to court to determine who owes what to whom.
As the Associated Press noted, much of what prompted the offer was Musk’s laments that Twitter was not living up to its potential as a bastion of free speech.
But this debate, frankly, has always been based on a particularly incorrect understanding of what free speech is, with a particularly inappropriate figure to defend. “freedom of speech” absolutism.
Twitter is, and always has been, a private company. Like Facebook. Like Fox News. Like the Joe Rogan podcast. Requiring Twitter to take advantage of anyone who wanted to use it to amplify its message has never been about free speech, any more than demanding that Fox News or Joe Rogan allot a set number of minutes to a progressive gadfly and former cabinet member Robert Reich or caustic expert Keith Olbermann would be a sincere effort to ensure that Reich or Olbermann have “freedom of speech.”
Private entities also have rights. And forcing Twitter or Fox News or Joe Rogan’s podcast to include guests or speakers they’re not comfortable with doesn’t advance the right to “freedom of speech” — it violates the rights of the creators and owners of these private entities.
Additionally, Musk, as an industrialist, has significant ties to China. Musk has praised working conditions in Chinese factories and has a history of complying with the vagaries of Chinese dictatorship, as reported by Newsweek.
And of course there was the 2018 incident in which Vernon Unsworth, a British caver involved in rescuing several children from a cave collapse, criticized Musk’s impractical offer of a miniature submarine in the rescue attempt. Rather than acknowledging that Unsworth had every right to speak out his criticism freely, Musk baselessly accused Unsworth of being a pedophile for journalists — clearly an effort to punish Unsworth for speaking out.
So, as the talk of buying Twitter turns into recriminations and lawsuits, it’s important to reflect on this: it was never about free speech. And Elon Musk never had the credibility to defend even this misunderstanding of “freedom of speech.”