Elon Musk Is Taking a Page From Donald Trump’s Book: Part I

CommentaryElon Musk’s acquisition of social media giant Twitter could be just the start of his public service to America. To the great consternation of the American Left, Musk is in the process of acquiring Twitter. Is this a random—albeit very surprising—act on the part of Musk, or is it the start of something wholly unexpected, just like Donald Trump’s announcement of his candidacy for president in June 2015? Let us examine the question in detail, starting with a summary of Musk’s offer to acquire Twitter, why the left is apoplectic about it, and what he has been exposing about Twitter along the way. Then, in the second part of this series, we will look at what could be his real motivation for the proffer and his long-term plan. Musk’s Nonbinding Offer to Buy Twitter Ever since Musk offered to buy all shares of Twitter on April 13, he has weathered a storm of criticism from the left. His $41.4 billion offer shocked the Twitter blue-check (“verified”) accounts, which are dominated by people from left-of-center to radical leftists, including Hollywood celebrities, Democrat politicians, legacy media figures, academics, and others. For example, media commentator Max Boot tweeted out on April 14: “I am frightened by the impact on society and politics if Elon Musk acquires Twitter. He seems to believe that on social media anything goes. For democracy to survive, we need more content moderation, not less.” And that was one of the more G-rated reactions from the blue-check crowd. Elon Musk attends the opening ceremony of the new Tesla Gigafactory for electric cars in Gruenheide, Germany, on March 22, 2022. (Patrick Pleul/Pool via Reuters) The blue checks are enduring the Musk version of Chinese water torture as he exposes Twitter as a modern version of George Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth,” into which it has morphed over the past six-plus years. The shock waves started with this excerpt from Exhibit B of his filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (emphasis added): “I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy. However, since making my investment I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.” Anyone familiar with Twitter in recent years knows full well that its algorithms are specifically designed to squelch free speech—especially that of a political nature—that deviates from the leftist/Democrat/globalist narrative. On the flip side, this makes it possible to create a media echo chamber on Twitter to reinforce accepted left-wing narratives, as 24.6 percent of blue-check Twitter accounts are held by journalists. Thousands of Twitter accounts of those who have deviated from the approved speech on COVID injections, vaccine mandates, mask mandates, 2020 election fraud, President Joe Biden’s mental acuity, sexual dysphoria (transsexualism), and a host of other topics have had their accounts locked or suspended. For example, Twitter permanently suspended former President Trump’s account—which had 88 million followers!—on Jan. 8, 2021. And the very existence of those Twitter algorithms suppressed the free speech of many dissenting voices who did not want their accounts suspended. Twitter has become an essential element in the left’s ongoing efforts to control the political dialogue in the United States and around the world by suppressing speech that deviates from the approved left-wing narratives, and also propagating approved speech in order to amplify its importance far more than warranted as a tactic to advance the Democrat agenda. Musk has begun to expose this—and much more. Anti-Free Speech Twitter does not support the First Amendment, yet the company enjoys protections under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects online companies like Twitter from liability for any content posted via their service. Section 230 was never intended to restrict political speech; it was aimed at “blocking and filtering technologies that empower parents to restrict their children’s access to objectionable or inappropriate online material,” according to Cornell Law School. Twitter claims not to be a content provider. Still, it has bastardized Section 230 protections to restrict political content posted that violates its leftist ideological rules, making it a de facto content provider. Back in March, Musk himself conducted an unofficial poll using his Twitter account to ascertain the public perception of whether Twitter as a company “rigorously adheres” to the principle that “free speech is essential to a functioning democracy.” Over 70 percent of the 2 million respondents voted “no.” Bots and Fake Accounts As of October 2021, there were 1.3 billion total Twitter accounts, with only 330 million classified as “active users” (regular

Elon Musk Is Taking a Page From Donald Trump’s Book: Part I

Commentary

Elon Musk’s acquisition of social media giant Twitter could be just the start of his public service to America.

To the great consternation of the American Left, Musk is in the process of acquiring Twitter. Is this a random—albeit very surprising—act on the part of Musk, or is it the start of something wholly unexpected, just like Donald Trump’s announcement of his candidacy for president in June 2015?

Let us examine the question in detail, starting with a summary of Musk’s offer to acquire Twitter, why the left is apoplectic about it, and what he has been exposing about Twitter along the way. Then, in the second part of this series, we will look at what could be his real motivation for the proffer and his long-term plan.

Musk’s Nonbinding Offer to Buy Twitter

Ever since Musk offered to buy all shares of Twitter on April 13, he has weathered a storm of criticism from the left. His $41.4 billion offer shocked the Twitter blue-check (“verified”) accounts, which are dominated by people from left-of-center to radical leftists, including Hollywood celebrities, Democrat politicians, legacy media figures, academics, and others.

For example, media commentator Max Boot tweeted out on April 14: “I am frightened by the impact on society and politics if Elon Musk acquires Twitter. He seems to believe that on social media anything goes. For democracy to survive, we need more content moderation, not less.” And that was one of the more G-rated reactions from the blue-check crowd.

Epoch Times Photo
Elon Musk attends the opening ceremony of the new Tesla Gigafactory for electric cars in Gruenheide, Germany, on March 22, 2022. (Patrick Pleul/Pool via Reuters)

The blue checks are enduring the Musk version of Chinese water torture as he exposes Twitter as a modern version of George Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth,” into which it has morphed over the past six-plus years. The shock waves started with this excerpt from Exhibit B of his filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (emphasis added):

“I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy. However, since making my investment I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.”

Anyone familiar with Twitter in recent years knows full well that its algorithms are specifically designed to squelch free speech—especially that of a political nature—that deviates from the leftist/Democrat/globalist narrative. On the flip side, this makes it possible to create a media echo chamber on Twitter to reinforce accepted left-wing narratives, as 24.6 percent of blue-check Twitter accounts are held by journalists.

Thousands of Twitter accounts of those who have deviated from the approved speech on COVID injections, vaccine mandates, mask mandates, 2020 election fraud, President Joe Biden’s mental acuity, sexual dysphoria (transsexualism), and a host of other topics have had their accounts locked or suspended.

For example, Twitter permanently suspended former President Trump’s account—which had 88 million followers!—on Jan. 8, 2021. And the very existence of those Twitter algorithms suppressed the free speech of many dissenting voices who did not want their accounts suspended.

Twitter has become an essential element in the left’s ongoing efforts to control the political dialogue in the United States and around the world by suppressing speech that deviates from the approved left-wing narratives, and also propagating approved speech in order to amplify its importance far more than warranted as a tactic to advance the Democrat agenda. Musk has begun to expose this—and much more.

Anti-Free Speech

Twitter does not support the First Amendment, yet the company enjoys protections under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects online companies like Twitter from liability for any content posted via their service.

Section 230 was never intended to restrict political speech; it was aimed at “blocking and filtering technologies that empower parents to restrict their children’s access to objectionable or inappropriate online material,” according to Cornell Law School.

Twitter claims not to be a content provider. Still, it has bastardized Section 230 protections to restrict political content posted that violates its leftist ideological rules, making it a de facto content provider.

Back in March, Musk himself conducted an unofficial poll using his Twitter account to ascertain the public perception of whether Twitter as a company “rigorously adheres” to the principle that “free speech is essential to a functioning democracy.”

Over 70 percent of the 2 million respondents voted “no.”

Bots and Fake Accounts

As of October 2021, there were 1.3 billion total Twitter accounts, with only 330 million classified as “active users” (regularly accessed accounts). According to Website Rating, some 77.75 million of those accounts are active in the United States.

Twitter has claimed that less than 5 percent of its accounts are automated bots or fake accounts. As described by TechTarget, “a bot—short for robot and also called an internet bot—is a computer program that operates as an agent for a user or other program or to simulate a human activity.”

A single person can create and control a “bot network” comprised of thousands of bots on social media like Twitter, which can be used to falsely influence the opinions of real people and ultimately affect U.S. public policy decisions.

Foreign actors can use bot networks to adversely influence public policy, too. For example, in May 2020, the U.S. State Department’s Global Engagement Center reported that “China is employing thousands of Twitter bots as part of its disinformation campaign to portray itself as the leader in global coronavirus recovery efforts instead of the source of the pandemic.”

And in September 2021, a large propaganda bot network was discovered that promoted the Chinese Communist Party and targeted American users across multiple social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Twitter continually claims to purge bots and fake accounts. Yet, the company has not publicly produced evidence that backs up its less than 5 percent claim.

Company Valuation

In 2020, Twitter received 86 percent of its revenue from advertising. The company’s valuation is thus almost entirely dependent upon the number of active accounts claimed over time—so-called “monetizable daily active users.” Twitter reported 211 million monetizable daily active users in the third quarter of 2021.

The more active accounts, the greater the revenue stream from advertisers who pay fees based on the anticipated number of “eyes” who see their ads. The greater the presumed Twitter stock value as it meets its projected account growth goals.

Twitter occasionally purges bot accounts with great fanfare, as reported here in July 2018. But one might suspect that Twitter only half-heartedly conducts purges for obvious financial reasons.

Twitter logo
A 3D-printed Twitter logo in a picture illustration taken on April 28, 2022. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Note that Twitter’s market cap peaked at $54.91 billion in June 2021 and has been trending downward to the current value of $28.5 billion, having lost about $6 billion since Musk began acquiring Twitter shares in January 2022.

How might the stock be valued if it is determined that 30 percent to 40 percent of its 211 million active user accounts are bots/fake? No wonder the Twitter board members accepted Musk’s tender offer of $44 billion on April 25!

This link here shows a list of accounts that were suspended/banned by Twitter and the purported reasons for doing so.

However, Musk is now demanding Twitter to produce proof of the percentage of bots and fake accounts. As reported by CNBC, he believes that at least 20 percent of Twitter’s user accounts—and possibly more—are fake or spam accounts. He could very well be right about that because a recent audit of Twitter accounts by the software company SparkToro found that nearly half of Biden’s 22 million Twitter followers are fake.

In any event, Musk placed his tender offer “on hold” on May 13 to ascertain the true value of Twitter and almost certainly to readjust his bid when the true number of active accounts is made known.

Suspended Accounts

When Twitter bans or “permanently suspends” an account, the account is still accessible by the individual user, but all Twitter functionality is disabled. Thus, suspended accounts are still “in the system.”

Are suspended accounts considered to be active user accounts for the purpose of monetization?

What does the Twitter board of directors know about these issues, and when did they learn of them?

The list mentioned above may grow over time as Musk exposes more about the goings-on at Twitter.

Conclusion

Musk has clearly ruffled the feathers of the political left in America through his tender offer to acquire Twitter and restore the company to basic free speech principles for everyone—not just the voices approved by the Democratic Party.

Is Musk’s pending acquisition of Twitter just a passing fancy of his, or is he perhaps pursuing a public service agenda similar to Trump’s that is just beginning to unfold?

Part II of this series will compare the careers of the two billionaires and suggest what Musk may really be up to in that regard.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Stu Cvrk retired as a captain after serving 30 years in the U.S. Navy in a variety of active and reserve capacities, with considerable operational experience in the Middle East and the Western Pacific. Through education and experience as an oceanographer and systems analyst, Cvrk is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received a classical liberal education that serves as the key foundation for his political commentary.