News from Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal that Elon Musk has opted not to join its Board of Directors has caused much speculation. Why would the fierce free speech billionaire advocate make such a decision? Given that Musk is not known to do anything in business without a specific reason, we can assume this is a calculated decision on his part.
One possible reason that stands out to me is that part of the agreement had Musk joined Twitter’s Board of Directors was that he would not own more than 15% of shares for the duration of his tenure plus 90 days after. I’ll get into why that matters more later.
Elon Musk is worth hundreds of billions of dollars. He is the founder, CEO, and Chief Engineer at SpaceX. He’s also an early-stage investor, CEO, and Product Architect of Tesla, Inc. He founded The Boring Company and co-founder of Neuralink and OpenAI
This is not a man who wastes his time or his energy. Or his money, for that matter. The business magnate invested in Twitter for a reason.
Musk once emailed his Tesla employees to limit large meetings, keep meetings short, and regularly walk out of meetings that provide no value. Limiting his purchasing power to sit on a board inefficient at elevating a platform and, at worst, purposely suppressing accessible flowing communication was a no-brainer.
No doubt the social media world has been rocked by the moves made by Elon recently. An outspoken critic of how big tech has continued to pick and choose what they decide to censor with what appears to be living corporate terms for what constitutes harmful speech.
The Twitter CEO doesn’t even really believe that they should uphold the tenets of free speech. While most of the uproar surrounding arbitrary censorship surrounds platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, other platforms aren’t immune.
LinkedIn made news this past week when it disabled an Air Force veteran’s account and non-profit account over a post they deemed hate speech. Gretchen Smith is the founder of Code of Vets, a non-profit she created in response to watching the effects of PTSD on her father.
In response to President Biden extending the student loan payment pause to August 31st Gretchen posted on LinkedIn :
“I am not responsible for your student debt. I grew up in poverty in NC. Ate from a garden, name was on community Angel tree for Christmas, bought clothes from yard sales and if I was lucky, on a rare occasion Sky City. I joined the Air Force then went to college. I made it happen.”
As a USAF veteran, I identify with so much of this statement. Even if I didn’t eat from a garden or have the same financial situation as Gretchen.
I joined the Air Force and received my college education through Tuition Assistance and utilizing my G.I. Bill. Like many other Americans and veterans, I don’t believe the government should forgive student loans.
Anyone who wants to argue that people like Gretchen and myself received their education for free is unaware of the full extent of what serving in the military entails.
In an interview on Fox News, Gretchen asked;
“What did I do wrong? I shared my story. That’s how I grew up.”
For a platform that encourages you to embrace your true self, tell your story, and define professional your way, they seem to be adding some clear caveats to that.
Is Big Tech censorship something that can be combated? Is free speech dead on social media? Can someone as rich and powerful as Elon Musk even conquer such a task?
The Code of Vets story comes on the heels of Twitter lifting its suspension of the New York Post over its reporting of the Hunter Biden laptop.
A story widely touted by ‘reputable’ news sources and over 50 intelligence community members as Russian disinformation now quietly on these same sources admitted to be real news. Conveniently after the most critical election, our country takes part.
During COVID, Big Tech and Mainstream Journalism amplified people who were catastrophically wrong on so many accounts while silencing scientists and doctors who turned out to be essentially correct. These doctors asked reasonable questions regarding the probable origin of a virus that rocked the entire world. They questioned the efficacy of business and school closures.
Two years later, we find many of these questions to be valid and claims to be accurate should give us all pause on how much control Big Tech and Mainstream Journalism have on our country.
Twitter removing President Donald Trump captured the ire of Republicans across the country.
What I think is more interesting is that nearly 100,000 Americans have reported undergoing online censorship to the American First Policy Institute. And almost half of all Americans say they know someone who has been temporarily or permanently banned from a social media platform.
That sounds like a lot more regular everyday Americans being actively censored by mainstream Social Media platforms than politicians or famous celebrities.
Notably, the Chinese Communist Party exercises what they call a social credit system. They rank their citizens, punishing those who don’t align with the CCP’s socialist ideal. Sound familiar?
The internet was meant to advance free speech and bring together a world full of differing ideas and opinions.
Social Media, in particular, was intended to promote critical thought and explore contrasting views. It’s been used to combat authoritarian leaders who are bent on controlling and censoring ideas that run counter to their efforts. They say absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where Big Tech can control who speaks, who participates, and what information is factual. I still maintain that Elon Musk may be the antidote to this absolute power.
That brings us back to my earlier question – why might Musk turn Agrawal down?
With Elon Musk declining a position on the Board of Directors, he can purchase a more significant percentage of Twitter, possibly setting up for a hostile takeover. This could be the beginning of shareholder advocacy.
Someone like Elon, a self-proclaimed free speech absolutist, bodes well for everyday Americans. Perhaps his latest signals to those within the Twittersphere that they should dust off those resumes.
Don’t worry, though; LinkedIn has a great feature where you can update your profile pic to alert people that you are #opentowork.
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