When Elon Musk bought Twitter, many figures in alternative media really thought they’d be getting re-platformed. Personally, I found it hilarious that Musk was willing to spend $44 billion because he missed Babylon Bee. But Twitter’s new CEO, Linda Yaccarino, has some of us questioning Musk’s long game.
Is he really a champion of free speech? Or was this a plan, all along, to turn Twitter into the American equivalent of WeChat? How much can we really trust him to stand up for the First Amendment?
Let’s look a little more closely at Linda Yaccarino first.
Before moving to Twitter, she was NBCUniversal’s Chairman of Global Advertising and Partnerships. During her decade-plus at NBC, she helped the network transition from a traditional broadcasting network to a modern media company, establishing partnerships with companies like Apple, Snapchat, Buzzfeed, and YouTube to increase NBC’s online presence dramatically.
This is a woman who knows in what direction the winds are blowing and gets things done.
From a purely business perspective, her choice as Twitter’s CEO makes sense. Twitter lost many of its big advertisers after Musk’s takeover. Their revenue in December 2022 was down more than 70% from the year before. Musk needs to start rebuilding his relationships with advertisers, and Yaccarino looks like the perfect person to do it.
Yaccarino has conservative credentials. Liberals hate her. After all, she was a Trump appointee to the Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. She follows Ron DeSantis and Libs of TikTok on Twitter.
She is also the World Economic Forum’s Chairman of the Taskforce on the Future of Work. The WEF has always favored heavy censorship. In the OP’s January article about the WEF’s annual meeting, we pointed out member Vera Jourova’s hint about illegal hate speech, “which you will soon have in the U.S.” Looking at comments made by Yaccarino, she seems to be on the same page.
In an interview with Musk on April 18, Yaccarino applauded Twitter’s decision to promote “freedom of speech, not freedom of reach.” This means that they will de-amplify voices that violate policies concerning hateful content and violent speech. At this point, I’m pretty sure we all know how arbitrary these usage policies are. They’re just a way to deplatform anyone politically inconvenient.
In the same interview, Yaccarino also made it clear that she wants marketers to have protection for their ad campaigns. She gives platforms to people willing to pay the most. And this mindset is why she’s so successful, but it’s also why mainstream media, in general, seems so monotonous. They’re all selling out to the highest advertisers because that’s how they make the most money. Did Elon Musk pick someone who’s going to stick to ideals for the sake of the First Amendment? No. No, that’s not Linda Yaccarino.
So, what was Musk thinking?
Is he just trying to get back some of that $44 billion?
Maybe. Or maybe he’s got some other motives.
Elon Musk has received many billions of dollars from the American government over the years, whether for projects like Tesla and Solar City or through various defense projects. Yes, I enjoy his smartass Twitter comments as much as anyone else, but you can’t convince me someone that dependent on government funding is any kind of idealist.
The rise of the “everything app?”
Upon hiring Yaccarino, Musk stated that he was excited to have someone help turn Twitter into the “everything app.”
What does he mean by that? Well, in a May 2022 interview on the All-In podcast, Musk elaborated a little bit. He thinks the U.S. needs a super-app, our own version of WeChat, the app used by over a billion Chinese. It is a one-stop shop, where you can message your friends, book flights, and pay almost anywhere within China. Most people on this website are aware of its use in tracking social credit, too.
An American super-app would be an amazing business opportunity, and Musk isn’t the only person who wants to cash in. Super-apps are becoming increasingly popular in other parts of the world. The trend took off in countries with a high percentage of unbanked people in the population, but has been catching on elsewhere, too.
People love the convenience, but these services don’t come without risks to freedom and privacy. We published an article recently about Ukraine’s Diia app, its “government in a smartphone.” Groups like the World Economic Forum have been aware of this move toward super-apps, and they see it as an opportunity for control, as discussed in the Diia article.
And the WEF brings us right back to Linda Yaccarino.
I have never particularly trusted Elon Musk. Maybe I’m too naturally cynical about rich people? Elon Musk is brilliant and eccentric. That makes him nothing more than brilliant and eccentric—he’s not out to save anyone, though he seems to enjoy seeing himself that way. He is absolutely passionate about free speech for himself, as he made clear in a recent interview, but his passion for free speech does not extend very far. Just look at how he treats truly independent journalists.
I was excited about the Twitter Files. We were finally getting some real information about what actually happens online. We wrote about it at the OP. I started following independent journalist Matt Taibbi more closely around this time because he was one of the first people contacted by Musk to wade through Twitter’s files. After his congressional crucifixion, my respect for Taibbi grew as it became obvious he was willing to take a lot of punches for the First Amendment.
So, how long did this working relationship between Musk and Taibbi last? You can read about the gory details here, though it is paywalled. Long story short, Musk got mad at Taibbi over posting to Substack (a tiny company relative to Twitter), and kicked him off Twitter. Someone that wants to think of himself as a free speech champion kicking off one of the few independent journalists out there? No, I don’t think so.
It’s possible, too, that other forces are at play. On May 9, Tucker Carlson announced that he would be launching his show on Twitter, after his firing by Fox. Is it a coincidence that Musk announced Yaccarino’s hiring four days later? Are other powerful figures pushing Musk to hire someone that could limit Tucker’s reach before the 2024 election?
This may be a stretch, but I don’t think it’s impossible. Enough crazy things have happened in the last few years that I would have previously found unimaginable; this could be another one of those situations.
There are a lot of new alliances out there.
We’ve all seen new alliances emerge, post-Covid. Tucker Carlson’s interview with Russell Brand was very enlightening. Buck Johnson and Naomi Wolf’s interview gave us another example of a liberal and a conservative having a candid discussion and finding many points of agreement. There are many more. The societal disruption surrounding Covid, the authoritarian measures, the constant rewriting of history have had freedom lovers of all political stripes coming together. This has been widely celebrated, as it should be.
I have seen this in my personal life. I had a conversation with a dear friend recently who had a very privileged upbringing in the Northeast; I had a low-income upbringing in the Midwest. Ten years ago, both of us were still products of our childhood. She was very liberal, I was very conservative.
Now we’ve met on the outside. Both of us have to come to the conclusion that the political class is rotten, and that mainstream media is designed to keep Boomers in their ideological comfort zones.
I have thoroughly enjoyed finding common ground with new people. However, lovers of conformity and power are doing the exact same thing. If independent-minded folks are coming together across the political spectrum to talk about new alliances and new ways of living, so are the authoritarians.
Elon Musk has always been somewhat left. He admits voting for Biden (though he also admits regretting it). Linda Yaccarino is a Trump appointee. But these things don’t matter nearly as much as the fact that they wield a huge amount of power online.
And our lives are being pushed more online by the minute. I wish we could all simply go off-grid, but that’s not realistic for 99.9% of us.
It’s natural to see an oddball like Elon Musk as a savior figure. That temptation to want someone big and powerful to come and rescue us peasants is strong. But we can’t rely on anyone swooping in to save us. The best option for most of us continues to be refining our own skill sets and nurturing our personal relationships so that we have more flexibility when things do take a sharper turn for the worse.
What are your thoughts?
What do you think about Linda Yaccarino? What about Elon Musk and Twitter? How committed to free speech is Musk, really? What effects do you think this alliance will have on social media being more open to conservative or libertarian ways of thinking? Or was the whole thing a boondoggle from the get-go?
Let’s talk about it in the comments.
About Marie Hawthorne
A lover of novels and cultivator of superb apple pie recipes, Marie spends her free time writing about the world around her.
Haven’t given it much thought. I’m on Twitter, but I only follow a few groups/manufacturers. I think k I’ve only posted something twice.
I’ve been withdrawing from. Most of Social Media. OP is one of the 2 or 3 I haven’t left yet.
TBTH, I could Hermit out real easily, and it’s becoming a fight to stay connected with anyone/group.
So the changes won’t have much effect on me.
I’m of the same thoughts….I wish I could go off grid, or find a little place off somewhere, where I wouldnt have to be around anyone if I didnt seek them out….but wont happen; meantime, I dont get on social media, and I trust very few people nowdays. I dont trust anything anyone says online, in the news, and very cautious about what I read. its sad when you’ve lived as long as me and you see things going downhill so fast, never in my life did I think things like this would happen. oh well, if I can survive awhile longer, I’ll have my reward and wont have to worry about anything. as for musk, thought he might be someone to help US, but after seeing his choice for ceo, nope, dont trust him either…..if we make it to the next election, we’d BETTER hope we get a very, very strong and gutsy leader to bring us back from the precipice on which we are standing, if not, then we’re gone…..God bless, good luck
Let’s get together and feel all right.
Just remember: Power corrupts! Power also seeks to gain more power, and will do anything to keep and expand what it has. Good article, I love it that you have made all the connections clear and understandable for us simple folk who don’t have the time to do the research. Keep up the good work!
I don’t know much about Linda Yaccarino, but I do think that it is a hard role to fill and no matter who was hired most people would disapprove. Musk has a tough decision as Twitter is going to have to become self-financing to survive, and the blue checks aren’t going to do it. Plus he personally has other things to attend to, so Twitter can’t be his full time gig.
The sad thing, a major dilemma for Musk really, is that people are only really interested in free speech if it is free.
….only really interested in free speech if it is free…
Are you suggesting payment of a fee to TwatPostGram gives me the right to say anything at all? Oy vey! So far that only counts for the paedophiles and economic terrorists, we should all have it, where do I pay?
Or we can grow up and start talking to people in the supermarket queue again, where rudeness can be instantly rewarded, and wit serve to rebuild communities.
The so-called Holy Communion is a feature in all coherent societies, Social Media is a poor substitute, the very opposite of communion. And you don’t have Schwabbitches filtering your words before they reach my ears!
My guts tell me to be cautious of this appointment of Yaccarino.
Thanks for the research. Like my 2009, 432 page book “It’s Over” predicted our former republic has ended. Musk’s new CEO will attempt to placate both sides for Twitter’s bottom line. Musk will not fall on his sword for conservatives or the left. Wealth preservation and increase rather than ideology is paramount. All will end soon. While we are all distracted by wokism & debt ceiling Russia & China are planning the end of America and it will happen in the blink of an eye. Until that time arrives normalcy bias will reign. Pray, prep & persevere in that order.
A lot of people are looking for a savior, and happily follow the latest promise, the great solution. They pour out of the woodwork, “Hey, look at me. I’m the latest noise, and the answer to all your problems.” True of the entire political spectrum. It won’t be too long before that “lot of people” lean how Wile-e-Coyote feels when he’s standing on air, and assumes the form of a lollipop with “Sucker” on it.
I think its all aimed at division. The only division that needs to exist is that of the accountable and unaccountable and the accountable hold the unaccountable Accountable! Lacking accountability it devolves into the wild west as who would defer to Clown Authorities making rules for everyone Else that they themselves consistently break and then they share those instances in the mainstream media explicitly so people can see how THEY are not touchable, while anyone not in their club who acts the same way gets the book thrown at them. THE LAW cannot be used to Mandate Actions to take. It can only be used to stipulate specific punishments for actions already taken, or its not the LAW. Seeing how nobody in the political class is ever prosecuted for their criminal actions makes for no willingness to defer to their CLOWN SHOW.
Disclosure 1: 2 family members own a Tesla
Disclosure 2: I have a degree in journalism from “back in the day” when generally what you saw was pretty close to true. Maybe not all the truth but at least it could be fact checked.
Linda Yaccarino is a corporate head and probably will do a great job of following marching orders.
I avoid ALL social media. How to tell fact from fiction from outright fantasy?
I also have no use for people who think that their money entitles them to push their opinion on the rest of us.
And it seems that Elon says one thing and does another.
It’s not a matter of agreeing with him or anyone else who has an opinion, as I don’t even agree with my husband or my best friend ALL the time. It’s a matter of respecting that their choices are based on accurate information and not some whisper of a rumor of a thought.
Print media is dying and that discourages me as it seems that facts are more important to the story if it’s in print and thus a physical evidence of what was published.
1984 has come and gone in the calendar but I see many things in today’s world that remind me of the book by that name.
And I am not encouraged.
Being a working geek that NEVER got involved in any of the socnets, it was an easy decision then and an even easier one now. If the Idiocracy that is recent gens want to be enslaved and censored and see very little value in liberty.
Hitler was bright and eccentric too – such a deal for the world . She’s set up to fail. And the reason for her “failure” will range from she’s female to “over regulation”. I question what ever possessed her to take the job except the fact there might be a financially lucrative golden parachute/employment contract.
Musk is an exploitative capitalist, not an environmentalist. By all measures, electric vehicles are a scam. Musk is also closely linked with the US military. It’s foolish to imagine him as any kind of savior or true proponent of free speech. Yaccarino has no real status as a progressive or conservative; she is a WEF acolyte, and merely another
Something bothers me about Musks speach pattern,its stunted robot like.Its repressed!Its like a person who is having a nerves breakdown speaks.It makes me nervous!I cant listen to him for long!
Enjoy your museful swim with the starving salt water crocodiles with pretty smiles and horned rim glasses.
I have given up with twitter. I used to get a lot of replies and my stuff was retweeted then suddenly – no likes, no retweets. Later, when I confronted the dreadful Anne Applebaum (who spends her time trying to rewrite Soviet History, among other things) I almost immediatley received a “suspicous activity… we need your mobile number!”
No, I don’t trust Elon, his story is too fantasticle and he is inconsitant.