What does Elon Musk think about social media and polarization?

Tech mogul Elon Musk finalized his purchase of Twitter in October of this year. 

Musk has long shown a strong interest in politics, economics and culture, and with his Twitter buy he now has a chance to put his beliefs into practice. 

Leaning closest to libertarian, Musk has positioned himself as a champion of free speech, claiming that social media should be a place for all to hear and be heard.

Musk’s mission to fight polarization

According to Musk, buying Twitter was motivated by his desire to build a “digital town square” and reduce political polarization

The Tesla CEO felt, in particular, that Twitter leadership under past leaders Jack Dorsey and Parag Agrawal, was overly inclined to censoring unpopular or controversial views. 

Musk has since expanded on that assertion, recently tweeting that a “woke mind virus” is taking over the political left and shutting down opinions it doesn’t like. 

He sees his purchase of Twitter as pushback against “wokeness,” which is a culturally and politically progressive school of thought which has strongly criticized traditional concepts of gender, capitalism and politics, focusing on police brutality, racism and economic injustice. 

Musk believes that social media platforms like Twitter have allowed the woke to run amok and he now aims to put it back in order by allowing all to have a say. 

Walking back his words? 

By his own words, Musk bought Twitter in order to stop the space, and social media more broadly, from becoming an “echo chamber” for the “far left” and “far right.”

Only by making it fair for all could the space be ensured to be a place where free speech wouldn’t be stifled and people would be exposed to opposing points of view instead of an echo chamber. 

However, since his October purchase, Musk has pushed through some controversial decisions, including recently banning various mainstream journalists for reporting news he didn’t like about an account which was tracking his location.

Twitter has never been more polarized, which is ironic because of Musk’s reason for buying Twitter to lessen polarization. 

The Twitter owner recently was seen talking to Saudi and Qatari investors and soon after tweeted out on Dec. 18 that he will step down as head of Twitter if a majority of users vote yes in his poll. 

Has he given up on his mission or just gotten tired of taking the flak for unpopular decisions? 

In all likelihood Musk is considering stepping back as the public face of the company in order to let somebody less controversial take the reins while he directs the operation from behind the scenes. 

Why is the West so divided?

Musk believes that the reason the West is so divided and social media reflects that is because of corporations, governments and individuals giving in to bullying from the “woke”.

Musk says that far left beliefs that question the gender binary, goodness of the United States, value of capitalism and more are inherently divisive and are trying to censor free speech. 

elon musk What does Elon Musk think about social media and polarization?

Users were previously banned from Twitter for using someone’s name prior to a gender transition (deadnaming) for example, or for using any racial or religious insult which could be linked to targeted discrimination. 

Musk believes that should not be so, and has since reinstituted many accounts that were found to engage in targeted harassment and incitement, including that of former President Donald Trump. 

According to Musk’s beliefs, humanity needs to work on expanding its consciousness, applying new technology and working together. 

Divisive cultural and political issues accomplish the opposite, by dividing us into teams that are opposed and can’t work together. 

Musk has confused some, however, by simultaneously putting the blame for this almost entirely on the “woke” and saying that this ideological group of far-left progressives is the main aspect to blame for the downward trajectory of the West. 

He has shared numerous memes, jokes and graphs pointing to his belief that without the woke and the far left he believes the far right would fade in relevance and soften up. 

Musk believes that social media can be a forum by which to restore balance to the conversation and dialog over important issues by allowing it to be a place where opinions can be given about any subject, no matter how distasteful to the woke, or even to him.

His recent bans call into question as to whether he truly is ready to overlook personal attacks and opinions which upset him. 

The Twitter Files

Musk also delivered troves of secret internal documents and communications from Twitter to journalists Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss. 

The “Twitter Files” as they’ve become known, show a pattern of collusion between Twitter’s former leadership and the US intelligence community, as well as biased attempts to shut down conservative voices and those questioning the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.

The Twitter Files show former head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth making executive decisions regarding Trump and conservative accounts, along with an inner cadre including Vijaya Gadde, head of legal. 

The pattern of unilateral decision-making has been heralded by Musk as proof of a highly unbalanced and unfair environment for free speech and healthy online engagement. 

Musk has since complained that Twitter was already on its way to going bankrupt when he made his offer and is now casting himself as a heroic victim who tried to rescue the social media platform for the good of humanity

Citing free speech as the “bedrock of democracy,” Musk believes that all views need to be given a hearing, although his recent actions seem to go against this, as noted. 

‘Dangerous for our democracy’

While Musk has warned about the dangers of having left-leaning individuals in charge of social media, others on the left such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have repeatedly warned against him, saying that a billionaire buying a social media company is “dangerous for our democracy.”

While Musk says his purchase of Twitter restores “public trust” in the giant, others say it’s just the opposite and that his goal of making the platform “politically neutral” has failed. 

What’s now clear is that escaping political polarization may not be as straightforward as Musk had intimated prior to his purchase of Twitter. 

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Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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