haldar15_ Tayfun CoskunAnadolu Agency via Getty Images_twitter Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Killing Twitter

Elon Musk claims that he bought the social-media platform to “help humanity” by investing in a public good: the world’s digital town square. But he fails to see that it’s the people, not the pavement, that make the town square, and that his “free-speech absolutism” is replacing townspeople with tourists and trolls.

CAMBRIDGE – In April 2022, the world’s richest person, Elon Musk, asked, “Is Twitter dying?” Five days later, he launched an apparently whimsical bid to buy the social-media platform. It took months of legal wrangling to complete the deal, but on October 27, Musk honored his $44 billion offer, acquiring a new toy: free speech.

Financially, Musk’s acquisition of Twitter was an odd move. Despite its user base of some 200 million – including politicians, journalists, and celebrities – Twitter has not turned a profit in eight of the last ten years. And not only did Musk sink a substantial chunk of his personal wealth into the purchase; he also borrowed $13 billion from a consortium of lenders – loans that will cost $9 billion in interest payments over the next 7-8 years.

According to Musk, money was never the point. He is seeking to “help humanity,” by investing in a public good: the world’s digital town square. In fact, Musk has now gained considerable influence over that square. By taking Twitter private, its CEO – or Chief Twit, as Musk has called himself – has ensured that he can do as he pleases, with no shareholders to whom he must answer.

To continue reading, register now.

Subscribe now for unlimited access to everything PS has to offer.


As a registered user, you can enjoy more PS content every month – for free.