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A photo illustration shows Elon Musk's Twitter profile

A photo illustration shows the Twitter logo on a smartphone with Elon Musk's official profile. (Photo Illustration: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

'Not Good for Democracy,' Critics Warn as Mega-Billionaire Elon Musk Moves to Buy Twitter

"Musk making a play for Twitter out of his petty cash drawer is one more example of why the pooling of so much wealth in the hands of a few is a societal disease."

Jake Johnson

News Thursday that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has offered to buy Twitter outright for around $43 billion—a fraction of his skyrocketing net worth—fueled growing concerns about the anti-democratic implications of allowing the ultra-wealthy to exert control over communication platforms used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, tweeted that a "gazillionaire treating a vital (if flawed) global communications platform as his plaything" is "not good for democracy."

"Users of social media platforms shouldn't have to be subject to the whims of bombastic billionaires who are detached from reality."

"Isn't [Facebook CEO] Mark Zuckerberg all the proof we need that it's a terrible idea to have one out-of-touch billionaire controlling critical communications platforms?" Weissman asked.

Walter Shaub, a senior ethics fellow at the Project On Government Oversight, added that "Elon Musk making a play for Twitter out of his petty cash drawer is one more example of why the pooling of so much wealth in the hands of a few is a societal disease."

Musk's offer, which he announced via Twitter Thursday morning, came just days after federal filings revealed that he purchased a $2.9 billion stake in the social media company, becoming its largest shareholder. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal then announced that Musk would be appointed to the company's board, a decision that was reversed soon thereafter.

Twitter said in a statement Thursday that its board "will carefully review the proposal to determine the course of action that it believes is in the best interest of the company and all Twitter stockholders." The company's stock surged following news of Musk's buyout offer.

In a letter to the chair of Twitter's board, Musk—who is currently the wealthiest man in the world, his net worth having soared 1,080% during the pandemic—wrote that his offer to buy the company for $54.20 a share in cash is his "best and final offer and if it is not accepted, I would need to reconsider my position as a shareholder."

"Twitter has extraordinary potential," Musk continued. "I will unlock it."

It's not entirely clear what Musk—a self-proclaimed "free speech absolutist" who has blocked people for criticizing his business practices—has in mind for the company, should the board accept his offer. On the day that his stake in Twitter was made public last week, Musk tweeted out a poll asking his tens of millions of followers whether the platform should have an "edit" button.

"If Elon Musk takes over Twitter, I assume he'll reinstate Trump, who'll use the platform to spark deadly violence again."

Some right-wing lawmakers, including Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), reacted with enthusiasm to news of Musk's Twitter stake, voicing hope that Musk would use his influence to push for the reinstatement of former President Donald Trump.

"Now that Elon Musk is Twitter's largest shareholder, it's time to lift the political censorship," Boebert tweeted last week. "Oh… and BRING BACK TRUMP!"

Twitter permanently banned Trump's personal account in early 2021 following the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

"If Elon Musk takes over Twitter, I assume he'll reinstate Trump, who'll use the platform to spark deadly violence again," Shaub warned Thursday. "Musk may also delete accounts of people who think he's a blight on the world—as I do."

Jessica González, co-CEO of the advocacy group Free Press, said in a statement Thursday that "what the richest man in the world wants, the richest man in the world might get."

"Unfortunately for the rest of us, Musk doesn't want to buy another expensive bauble but a global online community that includes more than 330 million people," said González. "Musk himself has used Twitter and other platforms to attack and effectively silence other speakers. He's turned to social media to spread disinformation about Covid-19 and vaccines. He's used Twitter to manipulate markets and increase his already-considerable wealth."

"Users of social media platforms," she added, "shouldn't have to be subject to the whims of bombastic billionaires who are detached from reality and lack any true commitment to free expression, racial justice, and democracy."

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