Elon Musk’s tweets about Ukraine, Taiwan and Kanye stoke worries about Twitter possession


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Elon Musk’s latest pronouncements on main overseas coverage points are ratcheting up nationwide safety considerations about his takeover of Twitter, a worldwide speech platform utilized by tons of of tens of millions, 75 % of them exterior the USA.

Within the 10 days since Elon Musk agreed once more to purchase the social media platform, he has proposed fixing the warfare in Ukraine by letting Russia maintain territory and received reward from a prime Chinese language diplomat for suggesting China take management of Taiwan. On Friday, U.S. and Ukrainian officers have been despatched scrambling as information broke that Musk had requested the Pentagon final month to take over paying for his Starlink satellite tv for pc communications service in Ukraine.

Musk complained that he couldn’t shoulder the prices and maintain sending new terminals to Ukraine, regardless that many have been backed by the U.S. and different nations. Ukraine rapidly famous the important nature of Musk’s contributions.

Musk’s makes an attempt to form overseas coverage in 280 characters or much less have raised new fears about how he’ll wield the platform’s outsized affect over politicians and world leaders who depend on Twitter if he takes management of the corporate.

Since autocrats already use the platform to unfold lies about opponents and whip up violence and mayhem, Musk’s pursuit of approval from two of probably the most highly effective is very unnerving.

“It’s an excellent illustration as to why it might be a catastrophe if Musk does come to personal Twitter,” mentioned Paul Barrett, deputy director of New York College’s Stern Middle for Enterprise and Human Rights. “You can have provocations, whether or not engineered by Musk himself or by others, that would have world implications.”

Elon Musk could quickly personal Twitter. What may it appear to be when he does?

The newest scrutiny started this week when distinguished geopolitical analyst Ian Bremmer mentioned Musk had been talking with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier than tweeting out a three-point plan for Ukraine that would go away Crimea, taken by drive in 2014, in Russia’s fingers.

“I spoke with Elon two weeks in the past, and he instructed me Putin (in a direct dialog with him) was ‘ready to barter’ … and had outlined the minimal the Russian president would require to finish the warfare,” Bremmer wrote to e-newsletter subscribers.

As phrase unfold on a second day of intensive Russian assaults on civilian inhabitants facilities in Ukraine, legislation professors speculated on whether or not Musk ought to have registered as a overseas agent.

“Logan Act” turned one in every of Twitter’s trending matters within the nation, referring to the 223-year-old legislation that bars non-public residents from conducting overseas coverage.

Solely then did Musk deny having spoken to Putin, since a dialog a 12 months and a half in the past about area points.

Musk bid for Twitter underscores the dangers of social media possession

Bremmer, a Time journal columnist and writer in addition to head of the Eurasia Group consultancy, stood by his account, tweeting that “Elon Musk instructed me he had spoken with Putin and the Kremlin instantly about Ukraine. he additionally instructed me what the Kremlin’s purple traces have been.”

4 days earlier, Musk mentioned in a Twitter dialog that he was in contact with “fairly a couple of” events within the warfare.

The trade has left lawmakers questioning the character of Musk’s communications with Putin.

“Clearly, it’s one thing we must always keep watch over,” Rep. John Katko (N.Y.), the highest Republican on the Home Homeland Safety Committee, mentioned throughout a Publish Dwell interview on Thursday.

The argument over whether or not Bremmer was mistaken, Musk had been exaggerating, or Musk was backtracking from the reality didn’t obscure two deeper factors Bremmer made in his e-newsletter:

First, given opposition to aiding Ukraine amongst some Republicans, Musk’s Twitter takeover and the doubtless reinstatement there of former president Donald Trump and a few of his allies would unfold opposition additional and divide the nation, threatening Ukraine’s backup.

Elon Musk says he would reverse Twitter ban on Donald Trump

Second, Musk’s acquisition would pit his new, free-speech enterprise in opposition to his previous companies: SpaceX, which depends on the Pentagon and NASA, and Tesla, which depends on China for scarce bodily sources.

“Every of those three are big bets on fully completely different futures for a technopolar world. They’re additionally probably the most geopolitically opposed enterprise fashions I’ve ever seen a single particular person pursue. Or possibly it’s the world’s greatest hedge,” Bremmer wrote.

Bret Schafer, a senior fellow on the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, mentioned Musk’s communications with Chinese language and Russian officers and enterprise pursuits overseas will create unprecedented dilemmas if he closes his deal to purchase Twitter.

“Most homeowners of those platforms have needed to stay impartial on points associated to politics and geopolitics,” Schafer mentioned. “His freewheeling type of speaking with authoritarians is definitely going to create challenges with how the platform is perceived.”

Although Musk has mentioned he’ll rid Twitter of automated bots, Schafer mentioned there was little readability round how Musk would reply to different kinds of overseas affect operations. He mentioned it’s unclear how Musk would deal with a Russian hack and leak operation, akin to occurred within the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, or whether or not Chinese language authorities officers ought to be allowed to affix a platform that residents can not entry. A Saudi prince is planning to maintain a stake in Twitter because the deal closes, regardless that a former Twitter worker was convicted of spying on dissidents for the Saudi authorities.

Lately, main social media corporations “have taken a stand on the aspect of democracy over autocracy,” Schafer mentioned. “It will likely be fascinating to see what route that shifts in if and when Musk takes over.”

As a result of Twitter is far smaller than different social networks akin to Fb and YouTube, Musk can have a higher means to micromanage content material moderation choices and dealings with overseas leaders than executives at different social networks, mentioned Rose Jackson, the director of the Democracy and Tech Initiative on the Atlantic Council. But regardless of Twitter’s smaller dimension, it wields immense affect over key decision-makers in media and politics, creating distinctive nationwide safety dangers.

Jackson mentioned that the Committee on International Funding in the USA, a cross-government group that critiques overseas transactions involving American corporations, “in all probability isn’t ample” in addressing the nationwide safety dangers offered by the Musk deal.

“It brings to the fore whether or not now we have ample instruments to handle real nationwide safety dangers and the way tech corporations, and notably info tech corporations, are financed,” mentioned Jackson, a former entrepreneur and State Division official.

China’s maintain over Tesla raises questions on Musk’s bid for Twitter

What worries many about Twitter is that the lion’s share of Musk’s wealth is his stake in Tesla, in order that in any battle amongst worldviews, the platform could be more than likely to undergo.

Tesla had document gross sales of its autos in China in September, at the same time as its competitors with native electrical car makers intensifies.

And Twitter already has points with China probably gathering details about its critics via promoting and spying, based on a latest whistleblower criticism and testimony by former safety chief Peiter Zatko. He mentioned the FBI warned the corporate {that a} Chinese language intelligence operative was working there.

After Musk’s Ukraine tweet every week in the past, a commentator for the Chinese language Communist Celebration’s World Instances cited it and wrote to a half-million Twitter followers that Musk “believes an excessive amount of within the U.S. and West’s ‘freedom of speech.’ He might be taught a lesson.”

Inside days, Musk opined in a Monetary Instances interview that Taiwan ought to be ruled like Hong Kong, successful reward from China’s ambassador to Washington: “I wish to thank @elonmusk for his name for peace throughout the Taiwan Strait and his concept about establishing a particular administrative zone for Taiwan.”

Barrett and others mentioned they weren’t afraid of Musk bringing Twitter to China and again into Russia, saying that would assist residents talk extra.

As an alternative, they fret {that a} Twitter with out a lot moderation would permit propagandists for these governments to wreak extra havoc than they already do.

“Elon Musk is entitled to his opinions and speech, however let’s simply say Freedom Home would welcome the chance to transient him extra completely on the egregious human rights violations in Russia, China and elsewhere on the earth earlier than he takes possession of one of many largest tech platforms,” mentioned Michael Abramowitz, president of the nonprofit Freedom Home, which tracks rights globally.

“Ukrainians are preventing to guard their elementary freedoms. Taiwan is a democracy the place individuals get pleasure from these freedoms day-after-day, they usually know the menace they’re dealing with from the PRC. We consider that every one democracies and democracy-supporting companies ought to help and defend these freedoms globally.”

Elon Musk’s free-speech agenda poses security dangers on world stage

Accountable Tech, a left-leaning group that has advocated for regulation of tech giants, despatched a letter final week to congressional leaders that known as for an investigation into Musk’s relationships with overseas actors. The letter says Congress ought to use its subpoena powers to find out whether or not Musk is in communication with senior officers on the Kremlin or in China “who may use this acquisition to undermine American nationwide safety pursuits.”

“It’s important that Congress instantly examine the nationwide safety implications of this acquisition and take steps, as vital, to guard American democracy and independence,” the group’s leaders, Nicole Gill and Jesse Lehrich, wrote.


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