Spam bots on Twitter are automated accounts that can take actions like real humans, such as sending out tweets, following other users, as well as liking and retweeting other users’ posts. Such accounts can be programmed to try and drive traffic to a product or service as part of a commercial endeavor or spread content as part of a social or political influence operation.Tom Ozimek, “Musk Says Twitter Deal on Hold Over Spam Bots” at Epoch Times (May 13, 2022)
That’s something Musk says he wants to fix:
Musk has said that, if his bid to buy Twitter is successful, he intends to authenticate all real humans on the platform.
“If our twitter bid succeeds, we will defeat the spam bots or die trying,” Musk said in an April 21 tweet. He followed that message up with a pledge to “authenticate all real humans.”Tom Ozimek, “Musk Says Twitter Deal on Hold Over Spam Bots” at Epoch Times (May 13, 2022)
Twitter has been telling the Securities Exchange Commission that merely 5% of the accounts are bots. If the number is in reality considerably higher, it might be more expensive to fix than anticipated and might require billions for the development of new, special-purpose software. So it is logical that Musk might be seeking a reduction in price.
In an e-mail newsletter, Breitbart Business pointed out that social media’s share values are currently down and that
We have said several times now that we expect Musk might attempt to lower his purchase price given the turmoil in the stock market that has hit last year’s high-flying tech shares hard. Shares of Snap, for example, are down 37.4 percent since April 1, when—in an odd bit of market symmetry—they closed at $37.39. If Twitter shares had followed a similar trajectory—which seems likely absent a takeover offer—they’d be trading around $25 right now. No one thinking to buy Twitter today would put in their opening offer at $54.20.
Rumors abound but the whole fevered tale could amount merely to the sort of thing that happens when prospective new homeowners discover a crack in the foundation wall. Maybe they’ll still buy it but we can be sure that they will want a price reduction.
Meanwhile, who are Musk’s political (as opposed to commercial) opposition?
Recently, 26 left-wing activist organizations sent a letter to Twitter’s advertisers, asking them to push back against Musk: For example, Twitter suspended the New York Post’s account when the newspaper reported on Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Musk called Twitter’s Post suspension “obviously incredibly inappropriate” and said he also planned to reverse the Trump ban.
It’s that attitude toward censorship that has progressives in a tizzy.
“Musk intends to steamroll those safeguards and provide a megaphone to extremists who traffic in disinformation, hate, and harassment,” the letter states. “Under the guise of ‘free speech,’ his vision will silence and endanger marginalized communities, and tear at the fraying fabric of democracy.”Adam Andrzejewski, “Elon Musk’s Twitter Detractors Were Subsidized With $10.5 Million In Taxpayer Funds” at Open the Books Substack (May 17, 2022)
Musk wants to know who funds these groups. According to the Daily Mail,
… the answer being an assortment of ‘dark money groups’ like George Soros’s Open Society Foundation; NGOs founded by former Clinton and Obama administration staffers; wealthy Democrat donors and their family foundations; labor unions; and the governments of European nations.Harriet Alexander, “REVEALED: George Soros, Clinton and Obama staffers and European governments are behind anti-Musk campaign… ” at Daily Mail (May 4, 2022)
According to a recent leak to whistleblower Project Veritas, the groups opposed to his buying Twitter have plenty of support from inside the company:
Siru Murugesan, Twitter Senior Engineer: “Twitter does not believe in free speech… Elon believes in free speech.” …
Murugesan on how Twitter employees are dealing with the changes at Twitter: “They’re like, ‘this would be my last day if it happens…’ a lot has changed. Like, we’re stress eating a lot. Like, we’re all worried for our job
“We did all we could to like, revolt against it. A lot of employees were revolting against it, but at the end of the day, the Board of Directors have the say.”
In short, Musk can have as many grand ideas as he wants for a more liberal Twitter, but they will all run aground on the shore of European censorship. He can talk endlessly about how ‘free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy’ and how ‘Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated’, but it will count for nought in the face of the Brussels bureaucracy’s determination to stamp out ‘hateful’ and ‘offensive’ speech online. When Verhofstadt goads Musk by saying that ‘thankfully’ the EU is clamping down on social-media chatter, he isn’t joking. The EU’s Digital Services Act, agreed just last month, will force social-media giants to take down genuinely illegal stuff – like child-abuse images or the promotion of terrorist activity – but also ‘falsehoods’ and content that could make people feel ‘unsafe’. Who gets to decide what is a lie, or what forms of speech are unsettling? It won’t be me or you. Or Musk. It will be Verhofstadt’s fellow freedom-allergic Eurocrats.
The consequences for Big Tech companies that fail to remove problematic content speedily will be grave. They could be fined as much as six per cent of their global revenue. As Jacob Mchangama says, the prospect of hefty fines, and the short timeframe companies will be given to take stuff down, will generate an ‘incentive to purge rather than protect’ people’s speech.Brendan O’Neill, “Elon Musk and the battle for control of the internet” at Spiked (May 13, 2022)
So even if Musk succeeds in the United States, he will find the European Union a formidable challenge.
Then, of course, there is the dank hostility of the legacy media. When they were essential sources of information, media were passionate defenders of free speech. Today, with the internet replacing most of their essential functions, they can probably survive only as the courtiers of powerful interests, on whose behalf they suppress the speech of others. They have made clear that they would like to do that to Substack and non-conforming intellectuals, and they will certainly try to do it to Musk as well. Stay tuned.
You may also wish to read: Musk’s Twitter deal is at risk amid fierce attacks on him. Tarred as a privileged white South African, Musk moved to Canada at 17 to avoid serving in South Africa’s apartheid army. The deal is on hold because he doubts Twitter’s claims that only 5% of accounts are bots — but he may simply be seeking to renegotiate the price.