twitter logo Elon Musk handle smartphone screen

Be Careful What You Bid For

By:Josh Fabian

Whether it’s a jump the shark moment or just another step in the evolutionary and disruptive process, there’s more to Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter than just a discussion about the implications for free speech with respect to domestic politics. There’s a discussion to be had about the implications in foreign relations, foreign business and whether or not Elon may find himself having to choose between free speech and selling Teslas.

Check out the latest episode of Truth or Skepticism for more on this topic.

For better or worse, Twitter has become a global town hall and main source of news. In some respects that’s been a great advancement. The dissemination of news has never been more immediate. In other respects, it’s less wonderful. Lies are more easily and more quickly spread. Enforcement of rules appears unbalanced to some. Bots have been used to exploit social and partisanship divides. The real danger though, with respect to Elon’s ownership of Twitter, is at the intersection of the geopolitical and business world.

One of the biggest potential markets for Tesla is China. China, well, at least Chinese officials, have access to Twitter. As it just so happens, they aren’t big on being bashed in public forums. They recognize the influence of social media and how it can be used to create or skew opinions. Therefore, it is entirely reasonable to believe President Xi will not just ask, but demand, Elon clamp down on negative and derogatory stories about China. It is entirely reasonable to believe the future of Tesla in China will hinge upon more favorable treatment of China. It is entirely possible Elon will find himself in a situation where he is forced to pick between selling cars and free speech.

Don’t think that’s a concern for Tesla? Take a look at their stock price. On April 13th, one day before announcing his offer for Twitter, Tesla stock closed just over $1022. As of this writing, Tesla is trading $835. That’s a drop of 18% in two weeks.

Elon and Twitter isn’t a story about him being spread too thin. It isn’t a story about domestic politics. It isn’t even a story about the price he’s paying; this is pocket change for Elon. This is a much bigger story than any of that. It’s a story about the value of free speech vs. selling cars and we’re about to find out which one matters most to the world’s wealthiest man.

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