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OPINION | OTHERS SAY: Change at Twitter? Maybe, maybe not

by The Dallas Morning News | April 30, 2022 at 3:08 a.m.

Our fellow Texan Elon Musk made a big purchase this week. You may have heard. Some billionaires buy yachts, jets or islands. Musk's vanity purchases venture into uncharted territory: spaceships and social media companies.

This was not a savvy business deal. It wasn't intended to be. The price for Twitter was driven up by a poison pill maneuver and other circumstances. Vanity purchases are rarely good bargains.

Gradually, Americans are coming to grips with the corrosive effects of social media. Public opinion is turning more negative toward the sector.

Twitter certainly deserves blame for some of its editorial decisions. And co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey deserves criticism for his absenteeism, splitting his time with his other company, Square. But those aren't the sum of Twitter's problems. This is an industry in the crosshairs.

As Jonathan Haidt's influential column in The Atlantic illustrated this month, companies like Twitter have contributed to the Babel-ification of America. Dialogue is harder to engage. Truth is harder to find. The people are scattering.

Musk fans, mostly conservatives and libertarians frustrated by Twitter's editorial decisions, see him as a savior who will restore free speech to the platform.

But effectively combining free speech and social media is a moon shot even for Musk. What's much more likely to happen is that the Internet will ruin the billionaire's new asset. As other companies have shown, to whatever extent a platform retreats from editorial control, Internet users will fill the void with inane, offensive or even dangerous content. Remember Parler?

As Musk will soon find out, being in the publishing business isn't easy, even for a brilliant billionaire inventor scientist businessman.

What will happen is unpredictable. But if Musk thinks he can take Twitter back to the early days of a social media free-for-all, he may soon wish he was once more just another tweeter.

Print Headline: Change at Twitter? Maybe


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