Twitter has a new sheriff in town, and his name is Elon Musk. The world’s wealthiest man offered to buy the social media site for $44 billion, and the company’s board accepted the offer yesterday.
Musk has many reasons for buying the company, but his main drive appears to be to preserve—or even strengthen—the site’s commitment to the principles of free speech.
“Twitter is the digital town square, where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” tweeted Musk.
Admittedly, the town square analogy is imperfect, as my colleague Liz Wolfe highlighted in her excellent post on the subject. For one thing, Twitter is a private company, rather than a genuinely public space, which means that it is not bound by the First Amendment. Unlike the actual town square, Twitter retains the right to punish users for perfectly legal speech. It’s also the case that while Twitter is incredibly important for the political class, journalists, business leaders, and other social influencers, it’s not nearly as big or as frequently visited as Facebook, YouTube, or TikTok. As Techdirt’s Mike Masnick put it, the entire internet is really the town square; Twitter is one small space that’s part of it.