OPINION: Elon Musk, Twitter, and Billionaires | Omid Fouladpouri
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article do not reflect the opinions of Pulse Magazine as a whole.
44 billion dollars. That’s the price Elon Musk paid to purchase Twitter when the value of the company was a whopping 14 billion dollars less. He bought it as a result of his goal to create an online public square where free speech is protected; however, those goals may not come to fruition as a result of various factors. Advertisers not wanting their ads around people who post the N-word constantly is certainly one of them. The other is the fact that Elon himself takes action against people who use their speech to make him angry, such as suppressing AOC’s notifications after she posted various tweets that upset him. Another big factor may be Saudi Arabia’s ownership of the company, considering their history regarding freedom of speech.
Twitter has an extensive history of being the world’s central communication hub and origin of many viral tweets and memes. Celebrities have long used Twitter to communicate with each other and their fans, as well as using it as a platform to promote their content and ideas. With over 450 million monthly active users, Twitter is one of the most popular sites on the Internet. Paired up with its unique form of posting direct thoughts to one’s followers’ timelines, it has certainly held a lot of appeal over the years. This is why Elon Musk — the richest man on Earth — buying it is such a big deal. It not only raises questions about the implications of a billionaire owning one of the biggest spheres of communications, but it also raises questions about the power billionaires have in society. We have seen billionaires historically buying big platforms, such as Jeff Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post, but we haven’t seen a purchase to this extent yet. The future of Twitter is certainly unclear considering the massive changes that Elon Musk is planning for the platform, including the laying off of many staff and making workplace policy changes that’ll affect its management.
What does this say about billionaires though? How much power do they really hold and is this power really justified at all? When some of the richest people own some of the biggest platforms, how can anyone disregard the plausible threats to democracy that may arise when people begin demanding for policy changes that threaten billionaires’ hold on the economy, economic power, and social influence? The pure fact that anyone is even allowed to buy a complete network of modern societal communication should be enough to concern people. We’ve already seen billionaires holding significant amounts of power in different social spheres. Economic power and corporate ownership is certainly one of them. Bill Gates owns a lot of farmland that he is able to directly control, for example. Another example of this power is in Elon’s continuous history of union-busting. This all just raises this important question: Should people be able to do whatever they want as long as they have enough money for it? As long as this question isn’t being asked enough, there won’t be change to the system as it is.