If you can’t join them, buy them. This is the philosophy billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk appears to have adopted as he launches a hostile takeover bid for the social media platform Twitter. Let’s hope he doesn’t succeed.
Mr. Musk has promised to make Twitter a “platform for free speech around the globe.” This vision is more or less the same one now-departed CEO Jack Dorsey championed throughout his tenure, and especially in the platform’s early days. But like its industry peers, Twitter has moved over time toward stricter rules. That isn’t because executives have changed their views, but rather because they have learned some lessons after observing how their products can be abused to manipulate elections, or spread health misinformation, or harass people en masse.
Certainly, moderators sometimes make mistakes, and more transparency surrounding enforcement decisions is in order. But a broader backtracking would be an error. To protect speech at all costs and keep Twitter free of bots and spam, as Mr. Musk has said he would like to do, is almost impossible.
As objectionable as Mr. Musk’s flippant attitude toward the challenges of balancing expression and safety has been his approach to the financial regulations that are supposed to govern his behavior. Mr. Musk could emerge richer from this spectacle even if his bid fails. But already, he might have made $156 million by gaming the legal requirements: The wealthiest man in the world was 11 days late in publicly declaring the acquisition of a large stake in Twitter and instead went on buying shares. This is only the latest episode in which Mr. Musk has shown disregard for the Securities and Exchange Commission; apparently, the investigation and resulting consent decree following his bluff about taking Tesla private were insufficient to tame him. By failing to discipline him this time, the agency will only further lose credibility.
All in all, amid his endless provocations and billionaire bluster, the most encouraging thing Mr. Musk has said about his Twitter ambitions is this: “I am not sure that I will actually be able to acquire it.”
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