Apr 25, 2022
Twitter is reportedly on the verge of announcing a deal as soon as Monday to sell the company and its massive social media platform to mega-billionaire Elon Musk--the richest man in the world--for around $43 billion in cash, a move that critics say could have dangerous implications for free expression and democracy itself.
Reutersreported that "Twitter may announce the $54.20-per-share deal later on Monday once its board has met to recommend the transaction to Twitter shareholders." The outlet, whose reporting was confirmed by the Wall Street Journal and other sources, stressed that "it is always possible that the deal collapses at the last minute."
"Unlike his ambitions to upend transportation and interstellar flight, this one is dangerous. It might well upend democracy."
A finalized deal would cap off a turbulent several weeks that saw Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, move from purchasing a nearly $3 billion stake in Twitter to attempting to buy the company outright. Originally it appeared as if Twitter would reject what's been dubbed a hostile takeover bid; the company's 11-member board even deployed the so-called "poison pill" defense to fend off the billionaire.
But the Journal reported that after Musk, whose wealth is largely in the form of Tesla stock, "disclosed that he has $46.5 billion in financing and the stock market swooned, Twitter changed its posture and opened the door to negotiations." Right-wing lawmakers have celebrated Musk's effort, hoping he will reinstate former President Donald Trump.
Twitter's share price jumped Monday on reports that a deal is imminent.
Angelo Carusone, president of the nonprofit media watchdog Media Matters for America, argued in a statement that "the sale of Twitter to Elon Musk would be a victory for disinformation and the people who peddle it."
"Twitter's Board of Directors must recognize that if Musk is successful, Donald Trump, who had been banned from the platform for repeated violations of terms of service and incitement to violence, will almost certainly be replatformed in weeks," said Carusone. "Other extremists and white supremacists will also likely have their accounts restored too."
"This potential deal is about much more than the future of Twitter," Carusone added. "A sale to Elon Musk without any conditions will pollute the entire information ecosystem by opening the floodgate of hate and lies. Twitter's board needs to take this into account now before the deal is done."
Since it became clear that Musk--a self-described "free speech absolutist"--was serious about trying to buy Twitter, progressives have been warning that such an agreement could have major anti-democratic consequences, placing control of a social media platform used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide under the control of an ultra-billionaire with libertarian leanings and a history of opposition to organized labor and workers' rights.
"The issue is oligarchy, not 'free speech,'" Nolan Higdon, a lecturer at Merrill College and the Education Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, wrote for Salon over the weekend. "As long as the corporate news media controls the narrative, audiences are likely to conflate Musk's purchase with free speech absolutism, thereby missing the significance of the greater threats to expression he now poses, and even the viability of the free press itself."
In a column for The Guardian on Sunday, former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich warned that "when billionaires like Musk justify their motives by using 'freedom,' beware."
"What they actually seek is freedom from accountability. They want to use their vast fortunes to do whatever they please--unconstrained by laws or regulations, shareholders, or even consumers," Reich wrote. "If you're the wealthiest person in the world you can buy one of the biggest megaphones in the world called Twitter--and then decide who can use it, what its algorithms are going to be, and how it either invites or filters out big lies. Musk's real goal has nothing to do with the freedom of others."
"His goal," Reich continued, "is his own unconstrained freedom--the freedom to wield enormous power without having to be accountable to laws and regulations, to shareholders, or to market competition--which is why he's dead set on owning Twitter. Unlike his ambitions to upend transportation and interstellar flight, this one is dangerous. It might well upend democracy."
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