Can Elon Musk Save Twitter? [Updated]

I have been concerned for a long time that it might be nearly impossible to build social media platforms that can compete effectively with behemoths like Facebook and Twitter. This is because of network effects, which come into play when the value of a service depends on the number of people who use it. Because of network effects, social media platforms may be natural monopolies like the water company, in which case they should be regulated as such.

Currently, several valiant efforts are being made to compete with Facebook and Twitter, and perhaps one or more will succeed. But the apparent collapse out of the starting gate of Donald Trump’s Truth Social platform does not bode well.

Elon Musk has bemoaned Twitter’s lack of commitment to free speech, and it came out yesterday that he has bought a 9.2% stake in Twitter, making him the company’s largest shareholder. The market capitalization of Twitter is $50 billion, even though the company has never made much money, and Musk’s net worth is currently reported at $267 billion, so if Musk wants badly enough to buy a controlling interest in Twitter, he presumably can.

That would be a good thing, obviously. Musk would run Twitter as a free speech platform and would not discriminate against conservatives, as Twitter has been doing to its great shame. I suppose the rest of us can only cheer Elon on.

I have proposed legislation to address the problem of political bias in social media platforms. It bans discrimination by such companies on the basis of race, sex, religion or political orientation and authorizes individual lawsuits for damages. The bill as introduced in the Minnesota Senate last year is embedded below. It has been introduced again this year and I think is likely to pass the Minnesota Senate, but it will struggle to get a vote in the Democrat-controlled House. I don’t suppose the Democrats will want to vote against a bill that bans discrimination on the basis of race and sex, so the question will be whether the bill’s advocates can force a vote.

The best case, of course, would be for the dominant social media companies to be run by people who believe in free speech. At Twitter, that hope could become a reality.

UPDATE: Heh. Even as a minority shareholder, Musk is already doing some good:

SCOTT adds: Rubin has updated his tweet to confess he was punked.

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