When people ask if I'm going to cancel my Twitter account now that Elon Musk is in charge of the company, I say, Absolutely not. Then I explain why.
I love Twitter. It's one of the first things I check on my iPhone when I wake up in the morning. It's one of the last things I check before I go to bed.
But I rarely use Twitter directly. I use a third-party app (Tweetbot) that collects tweets from the individuals and organizations that I follow, then presents them in a clean easy-to-use format.
I never see tweets from anyone I don't follow. I never see ads.
All I see is topical, interesting, provocative content from a wide range of knowledgeable commentators, mostly liberal in their politics. I also get tweets from organizations, including the Portland office of the National Weather Service, TripCheck (problems on Oregon highways), and the Kyiv Independent for up-to-date news about the Ukraine War.
Twitter is a marvelous way to keep informed on just about any subject that you're interested in. When economic news breaks, like a fresh inflation report, Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman shares tweets in my feed about how he sees that news.
I could give many more examples of why I adore Twitter. Now, I realize that people who use Twitter itself, not a third-party application, probably encounter more annoyances, such as ads.
But for me Twitter is very similar to Facebook. Apart from ads on Facebook, I don't see content from anybody that I don't choose to follow. So the argument that I should give up on Twitter because some Twitter users engage in hate speech or misinformation makes no sense to me.
The same thing happens on Facebook. Or any other social media platform. Since I don't follow people on Twitter who engage in hate speech or misinformation, I never encounter tweets with those qualities.
Well, with a few exceptions. When Donald Trump was on Twitter, I followed him off-and-on just to keep up on the crap he was tweeting about. It's easy to unfollow people and organizations, so when Trump got too annoying, I'd ditch him. Then I'd follow him again when I felt like it.
Since I'm a happy Space X Starlink satellite internet customer (was fortunate to be a beta tester of the service, which works great for us), I've followed Elon Musk on Twitter for quite a while. He's always been quirky, along with brilliant.
After buying Twitter, Musk has become irritating in many of his tweets, but I still follow him for the entertainment value.
There's been a lot of discussion among the people and organizations I follow about whether they should stick with Twitter or migrate to a different platform. Most are staying put, for pretty much the same reasons I am.
I have to admit, though, that Elon Musk runs the risk of ruining Twitter.
His politics seems to have tilted decidedly rightward. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. However, if Musk persists in allowing Twitter to be a haven for bigots, racists, and militant extremists, I worry that Twitter could enter a death spiral as advertisers jump ship and Musk's investment stops being financially viable.
What's perplexing is how someone as obviously intelligent as Elon Musk can be so ignorant about basic facts. Like the nature of the First Amendment and freedom of speech.
Recently Musk got pissed off at Apple for suspending the company's advertising on Twitter. He viewed that action as anti-free speech, whereas actually it was very much in line with free speech. As an excellent story by David French in The Atlantic says, the First Amendment only speaks about government, not private actors.
Here's an excerpt from Elon Musk and Tucker Carlson don't understand the First Amendment. If you aren't familiar with the reference to "Twitter files," this relates to today's release of internal Twitter communications regarding a New York Post story about Hunter Biden's laptop.
The First Amendment regulates government conduct. It does not regulate private actors. The text of the amendment itself says that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” That restraint on Congress has since been extended to apply to the U.S. government at all levels—local, state, and federal.
Activists have tried to argue that large social-media companies essentially function as the government, citing a line of cases that treat private parties as government actors when the private parties perform functions that are “traditionally and exclusively governmental.” Examples include running elections, private prisons, and so-called company towns.
But, as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently explained, “hosting speech on a private platform … is hardly ‘an activity that only governmental entities have traditionally performed.’” Social-media companies are not the government.
This means the First Amendment protects Twitter, the Biden campaign team, and the Democratic National Committee. The “TWITTER FILES” released so far do not describe a violation of the First Amendment. Instead, they detail the exercise of First Amendment rights by independent, private actors.
One can certainly agree or disagree with the way in which they exercised those rights. Twitter’s decision to delete pornographic pictures of Hunter Biden was entirely justified and appropriate. Its actions to suppress the New York Post story about Hunter’s laptop were far less defensible. But they were Twitter’s decisions to make, and no amount of misguided rhetoric can transform a Twitter story into a government scandal.