Maverick corporate innovator Elon Musk appeared ready to step down as CEO of Twitter Monday after a majority of users participating in an online poll said he should go.
What this means for the future of the platform is unclear. Even if he removes himself from day-to-day management of the online forum, he’ll still own the company. That means he still calls the shots even if he’s not the public face of the firm.
Musk’s two months at the helm have been rocky. Liberals unhappy with the look “under the covers” he provided the public confirmed that many of the worst allegations conservatives had made about the site were true.
Reporting by Matt Taibbi, Bari Weiss and others on information gleaned from internal Twitter corporate memoranda showed employees and contractors engaged in the suppression of user posts containing information either potentially helpful to the interests of then-President Donald J. Trump or harmful to the electoral prospects of Democrats including President Joe Biden.
Musk has been under fire over the last week for suspending the Twitter accounts of left-wing journalists and others, moves those opposed to his ownership of the platform argued were antithetical to his promise to keep the space safe for “free speech.”
Many of those complaining, meanwhile, had remained silent when the previous operators of the site were accused of suppressing viewpoints and news stories and the accounts of journalists and bloggers not in sync with the progressive agenda.
Some even endorsed wholeheartedly the removal of posts and participants from the site on the specious grounds of attempting to spread incorrect information about novel coronavirus or share news stories about the then-former U.S. vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate illegally profiting from international business deals involving his son Hunter that some former U.S. intelligence agency officials said had the appearance of Russian propaganda
The future of the platform and Musk’s role going forward is, at this moment, unclear. He has said if there is to be a new CEO, it will be someone who knows how to make the platform profitable.
Some of the controversies created during his brief time as Twitter’s CEO — especially the revelation that teams of FBI agents regularly interacted with company employees in what appeared to be attempts to influence what posts were permitted and which posts and posters were shuttled off to sidings never to been seen will be with us for some time.
Twitter is a private company and, like most any site where news is shared, has something to say about what does and does not appear. If company managers looked to the FBI for direction during their weekly meetings, as is now being argued occurred, the constitutional concerns become clear.
That looks a lot like “prior restraint” which, according to various experts on the left and right, is a violation of the constitutional guarantees of free speech and a free press.
Whatever happens, Musk is the winner. He has sharpened his brand, gained admirers and established himself as a defender of free speech. That’s an appealing position to be in, even if his motivation was economic rather than ideological.
Meanwhile, the fight for the soul of the Internet as a means of sharing news and opinion around the globe continues.
A former UPI senior political writer and U.S. News and World Report columnist, Peter Roff writes for various publications and think tanks including the Trans-Atlantic Leadership Network where he is a media fellow. Contact him at RoffColumns AT mail.com and follow him on Twitter @TheRoffDraft.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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