Statement from Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, on reports that Twitter is nearing a deal to sell itself to Elon Musk:
The sale of Twitter to Elon Musk would be a victory for disinformation and the people who peddle it. Musk could unleash a wave of toxicity and harassment and undo Twitter’s efforts to increase quality engagement and make its platform safer for users.
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 re-platformed in weeks. Other extremists and white supremacists will also likely have their accounts restored too.
But there is still time for Twitter’s board to prevent some of the worst harms. Any negotiations to sell Twitter to Musk must include clear enforceable mechanisms to uphold and maintain existing community standards, including the removal of those who violate those standards.”
This is not an unusual thing. When Dow Jones sold The Wall Street Journal to Rupert Murdoch, it put in place certain terms as a condition of sale that limited Rupert Murdoch’s ability to radically transform the Wall Street Journal into a reflection of Murdoch’s worst impulses. A similar expectation on Twitter’s board is not just a good idea, but absolutely essential in this case.
Handing Musk the reins to Twitter will undoubtedly unleash the conspiracy theories that the platform has attempted to squelch, and any attempt to use the platform for legitimate information sharing will be overshadowed by a toxic cesspool of misinformation.
The only thing worse than Twitter re-platforming the likes of Donald Trump and Alex Jones — as well as reversing course in dealing with disinformation and extremists — is the perverse pressure it’ll create on other major social media platforms, effectively igniting a race to the bottom.
“This potential deal is about much more than the future of Twitter. 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.