Experts sound alarm against Elon Musk buying Twitter — and warn all your DMs might not be safe
Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, is reportedly in final stage talks of buying Twitter and experts are warning of the threat to democracy and democratic institutions should the sale go through – which could happen as soon as today.
Musk was under federal order to have all his tweets pre-approved after being fined, along with Tesla, $40 million over SEC fraud charges. He has endorsed candidates like Kanye West and Andrew Yang, and moved to Texas, with Governor Greg Abbott claiming Musk supports the state’s “social policies,” including his vigilante-enforced abortion ban.
Early in the pandemic Musk called governmental directives to stay at home “fascist,” and has donated to both anti-choice Republicans and pro-choice Democrats.
Among his more concerning tweets is one, since removed, in which he likened Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Hitler.
Experts on extremism, political and civil rights, and security, along with journalists are issuing warnings and dire predictions as Musk grows closer to privately owning the social media platform many consider to be a cornerstone of American political discourse, one that helps shape public opinion and public policy.
Earlier this month CNBC reported The National Urban League was warning a Musk purchase of Twitter could have “grave” civil rights implications.
Political scientist, author, and founder and president of the political risk assessment consultancy, the Eurasia Group, Ian Bremmer wrote Monday he expects Musk will make Twitter “an even more polarizing and inhumane environment.”
The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona predicts if Musk completes the purchase, “Trump’s getting his Twitter account back.”
Berkeley professor and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich says “Elon Musk’s real goal has nothing to do with the freedom of others. His goal is the freedom to wield enormous power without having to be accountable to laws and regulations, shareholders, or market competition—which is why he’s dead set on owning Twitter.”
The COO of a security testing software company who tweets on national security and information security warns Musk could have access to user’s private direct messages:
No company should sit on private communications data at that sort of scale, even if they're generally trustworthy, because however trustworthy the directors and engineers are, or how Hack proof they make it, one day a billionaire spacecoin enthusiast can just buy out the company— Pwn All The Things (@Pwn All The Things) 1650889770
John Scott-Railton, a Senior Researcher at The Citizen Lab whose work focuses on technological threats civil society, puts the direct message threat in more context:
2/ Reports suggest that Musk is vindictive & has a history of using ethically questionable methods to go after people.\n\nTwitter has a trove of personal information.\n\nDo you trust it's safeguards?\n\nDo you trust Musk's self-restraint?pic.twitter.com/jagGjoBNyZ— John Scott-Railton (@John Scott-Railton) 1650892438
The Daily Beast’s investigative and political journalist Roger Sollenberger focuses on the data aspect of the sale.
Does Elon Musk, who among other hobbies is trying to democratize interplanetary travel, have time to run Twitter? He owns several companies, including a neurotechnology company that makes devices to implant in your brain. He's buying data. Then taking it private.— Roger Sollenberger found true love, suckers (@Roger Sollenberger found true love, suckers) 1650894812
Crooked Media editor-in-chief Brian Beutler points to the 2016 presidential election and the “disclosing the private communications of prominent Democrats.”
I guess we may live to find out, but the best thing for Musk\u2019s bottom line would be a GOP trifecta, and my recollection of 2016 is that the best way to secure one of those is by disclosing the private communications of prominent Democrats.https://twitter.com/mattyglesias/status/1518591690751238145\u00a0\u2026— Brian Beutler (@Brian Beutler) 1650895943
Josh Marshall, the editor in chief and founder of Talking Points Memo calls Musk buying Twitter a political act.
One thing I'm curious about. It's not clear to me that Musk has the liquid assets to purchase Twitter. So someone or group or institution has to help. But this is clearly a political purchase, not a financial one. So who puts up the cash?— Josh Marshall (@Josh Marshall) 1650889331
Senior defense analyst Brynn Tannehill, author of the book “American Fascism: How the GOP is Subverting Democracy,” delivers this stark warning:
It's easy to see what will happen to Twitter after Musk buys it out and turns it into a "free speech" haven. You'll end up like Parler, GETTR, Facebook, & others with zero enforcement: Right wing hell holes full of abusers, outrageously false information, and fascists everywhere— Brynn Tannehill (@Brynn Tannehill) 1650893225