On The Elon Musk Razzmatazz - TPM – Talking Points Memo:
This whole move to faux-civic-ize the platforms is wrongheaded. They’re not the public square. The actual digital public square is the open Internet. Facebook is a private company that makes untold billions of dollars by selling ads against digitally manipulated “engagement.” Twitter is the same. They just manage not to make money. That’s why it’s never really about “free speech” because the whole thing is really about algorithms that make certain kinds of speech more visible than others and do it for profit. So Facebook makes money by doing that. That’s what it is. Twitter somehow manages not to make money by doing that. But same difference. Anything that bloodies up the idea that these company spaces are the public square is thus a good thing. If Musk really is the Lex Luthor comic book villain people make him out to be (and which he really may be) I’m ready to see him treat Twitter like his own maniacal toy because he bought it and therefore he can. That’s good because it will be more clear that Twitter is not the public square. It’s a company impersonating the public square that a nasty person can buy. If people flee to other sites or find ways to operate around his malevolence I’m ready for that. That’s why my reaction to this is just as much “let it burn” as “oh no.” Probably a bit more so. I don’t think it’s good at all that Musk has purchased Twitter. But the real threats to civic life aren’t content moderation. It’s private companies impersonating the public square in our civic life. Things that break down that deception are not a bad thing.
I generally find Josh’s takes on most topics to be pretty sensible and helpful. I think his head is pointed in the right direction here, and his point about social media platforms not being the public square is a good one.
However, I find arguments that lean toward “Let it burn”/heighten-the-contradictions to be troubling.
Even if Twitter is not the public square, if enough people think it (and the rest of the social media platforms) is the public square, treat it as such, and ignore the actual public square, then the damage is done.