Timothy L. O’Brien, who has written critically about Trump’s claims to be a multi billionaire, wonders whether Elon Musk is having buyer’s remorse about his offer of $44 billion for Twitter. Musk tweeted on Friday morning that his offer was “temporarily on hold” while there is an investigation of Twitter bots.
O’Brien wrote at Bloomberg News:
Elon Musk took to Twitter early Friday to say that his takeover of the company was “temporarily on holdpending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users.”
Musk might be serious about this. Or he might be joking and just using his vast social media reach to have fun with the investors, Twitter Inc. employees, journalists, free-speech advocates and others who have been watching this garbage fire ignite. (A couple hours later he tweeted he was still committed to the deal.)
I’m in the camp of: “Musk is serious about this but he’s finding the most unserious of reasons to explain why he’s bailing.” As in: “I was thinking about buying that mansion, but the deal is on hold pending details about whether there are termites in some of the planters on the patio. I still have plenty of cash and can get a mortgage from the bank, believe me. It’s not about the money.”
I suspect Musk’s jitters about buying Twitter are all about the money and has nothing to do with how many bots are zooming around the platform. He just doesn’t want to say that. If the richest guy in the world wanted to be more honest about what’s going on, he might have to acknowledge that his primary credit card — his shares in Tesla Inc. — doesn’t have the buying power it once did.
Musk said last month that he wanted to buy Twitter for $43 billion — when he only had about $3 billion in cash on hand. Most of the fortune of the world’s richest man, which added up to some $259 billion at the time, was tied up in his Tesla shares. Since then, Tesla’s shares have lost about 36% of their value, and Musk’s net worth has fallen to about $215 billion.
Frankly, I would be pleased to see this purchase fall through. It’s frightening to think that one person would wield the power to control what has become the nation’s public square.
Musk has said he believes in unlimited free speech, but that too is dangerous in these times of disinformation and pervasive propaganda. In a famous Supreme Court decision, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that free speech does not give you the right to shout “Fire” in a crowded theater. Holmes was using the reference to justify a decision against a man handing out flyers opposed to recruitment for the military during World War 1. (Schenck vs. United States). That decision was subsequently overturned but the metaphor remains apt.
Musk would not exclude those on Twitter who offer phony cures for COVID or other diseases or those who urge people not to take the vaccines that would protect their lives. He would not exclude those who peddle hatred and bigotry.
This not to say that he does not exclude anyone. A group called “Public Citizen” has complained that it was blocked by Elon Musk. It may be that he blocks groups and individuals who post tweets about the riskinesss of Tesla. Who knows?
The Twitter platform should have standards for screening and deleting tweets that incite violence or circulate medical misinformation. That’s why Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene were banished.
Musk is apparently politically biased. He tweeted not long ago ““I strongly supported Obama for President, but today’s Democratic Party has been hijacked by extremists.” Extremists? Inciting an insurrection on January 6 doesn’t count as extremist? Invading the halls of z Congress and attacking police officers is not extremism? Insisting that the 2020 election was stolen is not extremist? If any party has been hijacked by extremists, it is the Republican Party.
Twitter is too important in our common life to be controlled by one man and his wildly inflated ego. I’m hoping the deal never happens.