Elon Musk: 2022’s Twitter-gate Genius of the Year
The tech mogul is building up his 'Musk Mania' to prove he was ‘right’ all along about the government’s influence in social media, under-the-table ploys by previous Twitter execs, and presenting himself as the anti-hero of Corporate America.
Just as Twitter was losing followers and dying out in the ever-growing world of digital technology and virtual communication, Elon Musk jumps in to save the day by embodying Julius Caesar’s rule of thumb: divide and conquer.
This year, it was not Twitter, but the conversation surrounding the former richest man in the world buying Twitter that took the world by storm, or enveloped the world in a whirlwind of chaos and scandals. Elon Musk ascending to become Twitter’s pharaoh is setting America’s alarm on, which in turn will put the world on alert – very high alert – amid ongoing crises and wars. Who is this “self-made” gazillionaire occupying media screens? He calls himself ‘Chief Twit’ – but some might call him this year’s idiotic genius.
On April 14, Musk offered to purchase the social media platform 100%, outright. Exactly a month later to the date, he put his purchase transaction on hold for reasons related to fake accounts amounting to 5% of its users. Two months later, Twitter sued the tech mogul for retracting from his purchase deal.
In October, Musk walked into the Twitter Headquarters with a sink in hand as the platform’s new CEO telling the world to “let that sink in”. Could Musk’s current and unexpected next steps bring the so-called American democracy to its knees?
Hostile political takeover
With graduate degrees earned in physics and economics, he quit his Ph.D. program at Stanford University even before starting it, only to seemingly lecture world leaders on conflict resolution. He’s been putting his two cents in on political matters such as the China-Taiwan tensions and the war in Ukraine.
Billionaire Elon #Musk, days after suggesting a possible deal to end the war in #Ukraine, suggested in an interview, that tensions between #China and #Taiwan could be resolved. pic.twitter.com/agcD8biaFk— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) October 11, 2022
He has supplied Kiev with the Starlink satellite internet network, which belongs to his spacecraft manufacturing company, SpaceX. The company was made to both compete with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and to make the colonization of Mars easier and more affordable, but it seems he’s colonized Twitter a lot more easily – especially with claims of free speech, content moderation, and the art of selective banning.
A day after he announced his offer, he tweeted “Free speech is the bedrock of functioning democracy”. In an attempt to make Twitter the capital of free speech, he first allowed parody-based accounts to swarm Twitter on the condition of labeling themselves as parody accounts in their bios, because 'tricking people is not ok.' He then proceeded to install the blue verification checkmark for those who pay $20, but after widespread backlash, he lowered the amount to $8. It didn't stop there. Musk then launched a fragrance called 'Burnt Hair' and requested that users buy it so he can fund his deliberate purchase of Twitter - which he bought from his Tesla shares, as its CEO.
Known as the electric car empire, Tesla's shares experienced a rollercoaster this year with Musk's hand on the controller. In November, he sold almost $4 billion worth of Tesla shares, and just this month, he sold a whopping 22 million shares (worth $3.6 billion). According to the SEC, the former CEO currently owns more than 423.6 million Tesla stakes, amounting to approximately 13% of the company's shares.
Along came birdie from Twitter Files
A little bird flew over the nest and dropped a little bomb called the Twitter Files – or ‘Twittergate’ if you will; This not only set the platform on fire but also set US politics ablaze.
In a nutshell, or in a way to summarize this mess of a scandal, it represents a set of internal documents, including screenshots of Twitter employees discussing company policies and content moderation decisions, which Musk exposed in a campaign of ten (for now) released sections, handed over on a silver plate to journalists Matt Taibbi who previously worked for Rolling Stones, Bari Weiss, formerly of the New York Times, Michael Shellenberger an independent author, and Lee Fang, an investigative journalist. Part one lays bare the contents of Hunter Biden’s notorious laptop; part two brings to light the visibility limitations of some accounts, part three, four, and five spill the tea on the facts behind former President Donald Trump’s ban and removal from the platform after the January 6 Capitol riots.
Taibbi’s description of Twitter as the "most influential" of platforms and the only one "giving people power to create and share ideas… without barriers" makes one believe this was a ‘this-for-that’ deal between the journalist and the tech kingpin – “I give you inside intel and you glorify the dying platform I just bought.”
According to the internal documents, Twitter prevented the spread and sharing of The New York Post story on the contents of Hunter Biden's laptop by users, which was viewed as a pro-Biden move or a Biden-cajoled campaign to cover up his son’s malfeasances – which range from footage of smoking drugs, sexual activity, to pornography and possibly shady dealings.
Social media giant #Twitter has had a strong hand in suppressing information regarding the contents of Hunter #Biden's controversial laptop. Journalist Matt Taibbi took to a Twitter thread, naming it 'The Twitter Files.' #TwitterFiles pic.twitter.com/1pftCiUt6r— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) December 3, 2022
Parts two and seven revealed that Twitter was in cahoots with the FBI, by playing the blacklisting game and bringing Trump into it way before January 6, and then trying to conceal the Hunter Biden story. Part three then uncovers the violation of Twitter policies by Twitter executives themselves, by having close-knit ties with the feds, answering every request they receive of blocking who the FBI wished to (talk about American democracy).
Parts four and five followed by showcasing Twitter employee reactions and involvement in regard to removing Trump from the platform, although he had not actively violated any guidelines or rules that would amount to having so done, according to the investigative journalist's report on the matter. The sixth part sheds light on the FBI’s role in turning in accounts to the platform’s safety and trust department for allegedly 'spreading false information', according to their standards, that is.
The eighth and final part exposes Twitter for sticking its nose in with the US military in operations influenced by the Pentagon in the Middle East. Lee Fang tweeted: "[B]ehind the scenes, Twitter gave approval & special protection to the US military’s online psychological influence ops. Despite knowledge that Pentagon propaganda accounts used covert identities, Twitter did not suspend many for around 2 years or more. Some remain active," as he listed an example of a 2017 email from the US Central Command stating 52 Arab-language accounts it employed to "amplify certain messages."
According to Fang, the platform allegedly gave the accounts extra visibility and made them exempt from being flagged as spam and abuse. Last but not least, the tenth part put Twitter under the magnifying glass for playing a role in discrediting doctors and health experts by censoring information that was medically true regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.
What’s the catch?
Why is Musk doing this? Money is definitely not an issue for him, and neither is leaving a legacy, as he already has eight kids with his genes, and vowed to keep having more by using 'low birthrates' as an excuse. The tech mogul is building his own 'Musk Mania' to prove he was ‘right’ all along about the government’s work, under-the-table ploys by previous Twitter execs, and ranking himself as the anti-hero of Corporate America and the anti-Christ of the left wing.
Following the Twitter Files scandal, it's hard to believe the FBI won't act on this. But forget the FBI - this whole fiasco from the beginning of the year till this very last month could be the tip of the iceberg. Is the tech mastermind devising a plan to control social construction and mind works as technology plays in his hands? It won't be surprising either if Musk announces his entrance into the political arena since his nose is in it anyways. 2022 was just the trailer. The final show is due to play next year, and the final curtain call may come sooner than expected.