KINSELLA: Twitter about Elon Musk is exaggerated

The problem is not that the media enterprise has an owner. The problem is with the right owner.

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The great Calgary Herald writer Howard Solomon arched an eyebrow.

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“Media property owners,” Howard said, “should be seen but not heard.”

There was general agreement in the Herald newsroom about this, and we were all nodding our heads earnestly.

Except that even as a humble student of the summer Herald and general reporter, I knew that the media world described by Howard Solomon was not really the media world we all live in. a newspaper, a radio or television station, a social network is much better than having no owner at all.

And, in fact, the problem is not that the media enterprise has an owner. The problem is with the right owner.

Which takes us in a detour to Elon Musk and Twitter. Is the first the copyright holder of the second?

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You have, of course, heard of Musk. He studied for a couple of years at Queen’s University and is now the richest man in the world – Tesla, Starlink and so on. Meanwhile, Twitter is a social networking platform that offers “microblogging” in the form of “tweets”.

On Monday, it was announced that Musk had reached an agreement to buy Twitter for $44 billion. Immediately thereafter, forests were cut down to print nonsensical analyzes of what Musk’s Twitter would mean for free speech, politics, and Donald Trump.

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Some conservatives who see Musk as one of them think it will be a brave new world. Some progressives who are suspicious of Musk have been emboldened by his (usually) vague promise to start “authenticating all people,” which they think could mean wiping out Twitter bots, trolls, and scammers. Who, according to most, turned Twitter into a cyber sewer.

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As for me, I’m not sure either side is right. In every media company I’ve worked for, all of us ink-stained scoundrels have always been afraid of new owners coming in. We would be worried about whether they would try to censor and control what we write. I wonder if they’ll make us walk the plank.

But almost inevitably, the new owners will end up on their side of the newsroom, concerned only with bottom line, not black lines. (By the way, this has always been my experience with the paper you clutch in your sweaty mullahs: never once—not once, never—have the owners tried to control what I write.)

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Musk, I suspect, is about to learn some of the same media lessons. If he messes with Twitter too much, he will ruin it. And then someone else will come and start something new, and everyone will go there.

For Musk, Twitter is potentially problematic for another reason: it is hugely popular among two groups that could have a notable impact on his various ventures — politicians and journalists. Politicians and hackers alike love Twitter because it resembles the Rorschach pattern of our tiny skulls: it flies around, it’s small and nasty.

If Musk takes up a hacksaw on Twitter, politicians and journalists will start snapping at him even more than they do now. Journalists as a collective can ruin Musk’s reputation in the marketplace and beyond, and politicians acting at the behest of journalists have the regulatory power to make life difficult for internet companies like his.

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There are other issues: I personally think that Musk may have gone crazy spending so much money on a social media platform that, unlike Facebook and Instagram, has never figured out how to make money. And, whether he likes it or not, civil and criminal word laws will still have the final say on what he posts online.

But I think the pearl-grabbing about Elon Musk on Twitter – like Musk himself – is a little overblown. If he can do just one thing—eliminate the anonymous accounts whose bile has made Twitter an absolutely terrible place for many, especially women—he will improve people’s lives.

In the meantime, however, some of us will remember Howard Solomon’s wise words about media owners.

And we will console ourselves with the knowledge that the media universe, like the Internet universe, is simply too big to be controlled by a single person.

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