CRISTINA OSMENA: Elon Musk, free speech and Twitter
I have never been so grateful for Elon Musk as I have been this week. He has always had outrageous antics that were fun to watch. He launched a Tesla into orbit around the sun carrying a quote from one of his favorite books, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. He lit up a marijuana joint on a Joe Rogan podcast and proceeded to talk about the dangers of Artificial Intelligence. More recently, he challenged Vladimir Putin to one-on-one combat over the Ukraine. Presumably, he meant judo and, presumably, Putin hasn’t responded. He is a fan of the Avengers (that band of superheroes). He seems remarkably candid. And he loves his mother, Maye Musk. All in all, he is a fun person to follow. When someone is one of the wealthiest people on the planet, you have to take them seriously no matter how outrageous he is. That is why I love him this week.
On Monday, an SEC filing announced that Elon Musk bought 9.2% of Twitter for $2.9 billion. This calculates out to a valuation for the entire company of $31.5 billion. Since the news sent the stock up, the company is now valued at around $41 billion. Musk’s stake is up another 30%, netting him almost $1 billion. That’s not the impressive part. The impressive part is that the investment follows about a month of Musk publicly hemming and hawing about free speech.
I’m giving this part of the story a new paragraph because I think it’s so important. Social media companies like Twitter and Facebook and search engines like Google are not government entities. They don’t have to be impartial in how they curate information for the public. They can mine the general user for all the information they can extract from them and also control how they think by controlling their information. Doubts about vaccines? You may not get any information. Doubts about the cognitive ability of our current POTUS? You may not see those posts either. Curious about Hunter Biden’s laptop (which turns out to be a real thing.) You may not be able to find the original New York Post article on Twitter. It’s been increasingly egregious and, honestly, really irritating to converse with people who get their information from these curated news sources like the West Coast social media giants plus CNN and MSNBC (which have whittled down their own viewership as a result of their biased reporting). That is why it is so refreshing to watch a powerful persona like Elon Musk call it like it is. He does not cow tow to the thought police–he says what he thinks. I was worried for a moment that Twitter would cancel him too.
The news of the week is a wonderful reversal of that trend. Maybe Musk’s purchase of a stake in Twitter will put a bottom into the degradation of our badly curated news flow. Because he joined the board on Tuesday, his ownership is capped at 14%. That is, unless he leaves the board. This kind of swift move (the $2.9 billion purchase) could only have been accomplished by one of the few people in the world with Musk’s net worth. I’m just so glad that someone who can do that is on the side of free speech. The web of lies was getting so bad with the Silicon Valley set.