Published October 6, 2022
Elon Musk has once again offered to buy Twitter for an initial price of $44 billion. Given that the social network is currently suing the world’s richest man to buy the company, it’s likely that Twitter will go along with the proposal.
For some mainstream media journalists working in the field of countering disinformation, the prospect is absolutely dire. Ben Collins, reporter for NBC News, sums up the consensus well:
For those of you who are asking, yes, I do think this site could and will change quite a lot if Musk gets full control of it.
No, there is no immediate replacement.
If it’s done early enough, based on the people he’s connected to, yes, it could really affect the interim dates.
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) October 4, 2022
Translation: “For those of you who are wondering: yes, I think this site can and will change quite drastically if Musk takes full control of it.
No, there is no immediate replacement. If it’s done early enough, depending on who he’s affiliated with, yes, it could indeed affect the midterms. »
Mr. Collins’ concerns reflect quite accurately how many media figures feel about this potential takeover of Twitter. Axios described Musk’s behavior as that of a supervillain, and Jeff Jarvis, a professor of journalism at the City University of New York, complained about witnessing the rise of Nazism in Germany.
What scares them so much about Musk is simply that he has been critical of Twitter’s past efforts to moderate content, which he says have too often led to the suppression of legitimate political speech. The most famous example, of course, is Twitter’s handling of the New York Post article about Hunter Biden, which even former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted was a mistake.
But members of the mainstream media tend to think that social media needs more guarantees, not less. They widely endorsed the notion that Twitter and Facebook are full of fake news, that the media’s job is to catch it, and the platforms’ job is to weed it out.
These sweeping denunciations by the mainstream media often obscure the fact that the news is often erroneously labeled as fake news and that disinformation stars (whether self-proclaimed or government-appointed) tend to be wrong.
Indeed, Mr. Collins’ claim that Musk could acquire Twitter, dramatically repurpose it, and defeat the Republicans in the midterm elections within weeks speaks volumes. Some journalists in the sector regularly exaggerate the importance of Twitter in life in general. People get news in a variety of ways, from a variety of sources. What happens on the bluebird website is of great importance to Washington politicians and their opponents in the media. Ordinary people are not so radically connected.
It remains to be seen what new policy Musk will adopt if he takes over the site. Chances are, they’ll find that moderating large-scale content is a lot harder than they think. But trying to make the site a little more fair to alternative and irritating political views is not a project to be hailed with apocalyptic critique.
Translation of counterpoint