Tesla mogul Elon Musk will soon own Twitter in a $43 billion deal that will take the social media platform private, but there are several red flags associated with the takeover and Black America is speaking out.
Black Twitter is wary of the world’s wealthiest man being in charge of the platform, and there are reasons for concern.
“Well, I’m out,” New York Times Opinion columnist Charles M. Blow tweeted on April 25. “I will now use Twitter like I use Facebook: only for promo purposes, to post my columns, tv and speech appearances, and book info. No ‘content’ specifically for it, or created on it.”
Musk has been known to lash out at people who criticize him, especially his employees. He has threatened to sue bloggers for critical coverage and fired employees for disagreeing with him.
Musk has denied allegations of rage-firing employees.
For years, Musk’s main moneymaker, automaker Tesla, has been sued by its workers for racial discrimination. If this is how Tesla is run, will Twitter follow suit under Musk?
“The implication for Twitter is that the same administrative approach that prompted accusations of racism against Tesla will come to Twitter, which already has a disproportionately white workforce,” NewsOne reported.
Black workers at Tesla’s Fremont, California, factory complained of being harassed at work, bullied by a supervisor and finding racist graffiti sprayed on factory walls. This led to a lawsuit filed Feb. 9 by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The suit alleges that Black workers in the company’s flagship California factory experienced “rampant racism” that the company left “unchecked for years,” The Guardian reported.
This is just one of many racial discrimination lawsuits the company has faced in recent years.
Back in Oct. 2021, a jury awarded a Black worker $137 million in a landmark racial discrimination judgment against Tesla. It has since been scaled down to just $15 million.
A 2020 diversity report published by Tesla showed that 10 percent of its U.S. workforce was made up of employees identifying as Black and African American, but only 4 percent at the director level.
Observers say a Musk takeover could lead to Trump returning to the platform along with others whose accounts have been banned. Trump’s personal account was “permanently suspended” by Twitter in 2021 in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. His supporters sought to interfere with the certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election win and many boasted about it on Twitter, leading to their arrest.
Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist,” has been critical of Twitter’s crackdown on hate speech, calling it censorship.
The Washington Post described Musk’s move to buy Twitter in part as him wanting “a free speech utopia,” but that could mean allowing misinformation, lies, racism, and threats of violence with impunity.
“What Musk seemingly fails to recognize is that to truly have a free speech today, you need moderation,” said Katie Harbath, a former Facebook public policy director and CEO of consultancy Anchor Change, in the Washington Post. “Otherwise, just those who bully and harass will be left as they will drive others away.”
In a statement to Musk, the NAACP appealed to him, “Do not allow Twitter to become a petri dish for hate speech, or falsehoods that subvert our democracy … free speech is wonderful, hate speech is unacceptable. Disinformation, misinformation, and hate speech have NO PLACE on Twitter.”
Columnist Erika D. Smith wrote in an opinion piece for The Los Angeles Times, “Consider this the beginning of the end of #BlackTwitter. Not of Black people on Twitter but of #BlackTwitter — the community of millions that figured out how to turn a nascent social media platform into an indispensable tool for real-world activism, political power, and change.”
Smith pointed out the value of #BlackTwitter.
“BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe became rallying cries for hundreds of thousands of protesters after the 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. And for years before that, when fewer Americans were paying attention to the disproportionate number of Black women being killed by police, there was #SayHerName,” wrote Smith.
The deal “has polarized Twitter employees,” The Wall Street Journal reported. Not only are they concerned about what will happen to their shares in the company when it is taken private by Musk, but they are concerned about the reputation of the platform.
At a company meeting on April 25, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal told employees that no layoffs are planned. Still, according to a person who heard the remarks, “we don’t know what direction the company may go” once Musk is in charge.
Employees also told The New York Times that they worried Musk would “undo the years of work they had put into cleaning up the toxic corners of the platform.”
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The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Musk in 2018 with securities fraud for a series of false and misleading tweets about a potential transaction to take Tesla private.
Musk tweeted to his 22 million Twitter followers on Aug. 7, 2018, that he could take Tesla private at $420 per share, but according to the SEC’s complaint, Musk had not discussed specific deal terms with any potential financing partners. His tweets, however, caused Tesla’s stock price to jump by more than 6 percent on Aug. 7, according to an SEC press release.
“Mr. Neuralink just bought the metadata and innermost thoughts of billions of ppl and mofos think it has something to do with free speech…man y’all gullible” tweeted Learn_N_Grow85.
Photo: Elon Musk, Sept. 25, 2020, in Los Angeles. (zz/Wil R/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 9/25/20)