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Elon Musk’s Not-so-Hidden Agenda

All that is needed to destroy the possibility of a democratic information space for particular political issues is to provide a platform for, and give legitimacy to, would-be propagandists. If one destroys the information space, it will no longer be possible to marshal citizens against the powerful.

NEW HAVEN – Why did Elon Musk purchase Twitter? His official answer – to defend free speech and democracy – is so unconvincing that the question won’t go away. Musk’s repeated appeals to these ideals to justify important decisions he has made since taking over are so confounding that they raise deep suspicions about his motives.

For example, Musk castigated the decision to remove former President Donald Trump’s account, arguing that “freedom of speech is the bedrock of a strong democracy.” But Trump’s account was removed because he was using it to spread conspiracy theories about the election to a wide audience with increasingly violent language. It’s difficult to imagine a more effective way to undermine democracy than to give the president of the United States a platform to claim that a free and fair election that he lost was “stolen.” How would allowing Trump, still the leader of the Republican Party and the former leader of a democratic country, to use Twitter to attack democracy make democracy stronger?

A democratic system relies on widespread acceptance of the legitimacy of its rules. This legitimacy is expressed, most obviously, in voting. So, it is no accident that those seeking to destroy the legitimacy of democracy spread disinformation that undermines trust in the electoral system.

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