Musk buys Twitter, Biden worried about social media power

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Washington: US President Joe Biden is more concerned about the power of large social media platforms than about who owns them, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters when asked about Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.

Musk, the billionaire businessman, reached a deal to buy Twitter for around $44 billion in a move that will delist the social media giant from the New York Stock Exchange and make it privately-held, the company said in a statement.

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“I’m not going to comment on a specific transaction. What I can tell you, no matter who owns or runs Twitter, the President has long been concerned about the power of large social media platforms, the power they have over our everyday lives. He has long argued that tech platforms must be held accountable for the harms they cause,” Psaki said on Monday when asked to comment on the acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk.

Psaki noted that Biden has been a strong supporter of antitrust reforms that would require more transparency from large media platforms and he is encouraged that there is a bipartisan interest in Congress to accomplish that. Musk had earlier bought a 9.1% stake in Twitter from the open market for nearly $3 billion before making a bid for its remaining shares that he did not already own.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a statement also expressed concerns about Musk’s move. “We should be worried about any powerful central actor, whether it’s a government or any wealthy individual – even if it’s an ACLU member – having so much control over the boundaries of our political speech online,” the human rights group said in a tweet. Musk stuck to his narrative of wanting to be a “free speech absolutist” who would revolutionize Twitter’s role in public debates.

Musk earlier described Twitter as “the digital town square” of US democracy. “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,”

Musk said in statement posted on Twitter. Many voiced concerns that Musk might reinstate former President Donald Trump’s account, but the New York real estate magnate told FOX News he is not going back to Twitter. Republicans and Democrats were split on the reaction, with the former applauding the acquisition as a win for free speech. Congressman Jim Jordan in a tweet said “free speech is making a comeback,” and attached an article about Musk’s buyout. Senator Marsha Blackburn was also encouraged by the announcement. “I am hopeful that Elon Musk will help rein in Big Tech’s history of censoring users that have a different viewpoint,” Blackburn said in a tweet. Democrats saw it as another example of why the rich need to be taxed.

“This deal is dangerous for our democracy. Billionaires like Elon Musk play by a different set of rules than everyone else, accumulating power for their own gain. We need a wealth tax and strong rules to hold Big Tech accountable,” Senator Elizabeth Warner tweeted. Before calling for a wealth tax, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said from 2014-2018 Musk paid an effective tax rate of 3.27% while working families paid 13 percent. Meanwhile, one lawmaker suggested Musk has proven at least one thing today about the wealthy. “If they can afford to buy Twitter, they can afford to pay their fair share in taxes,” Congresswoman Katherine Clark added.