Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba wants to have his five-minute of fame by taking a stand on hate speech with Twitter owner Elon Musk. He could have done the same when we had hate groups and festive parties celebrating Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, but let’s not go there. I’ll keep reminding my previous friends of their obligations until the Maltese government finally decides to commemorate officially Daphne Caruana Galizia and her work.
The biggest problem with Elon Musk acquiring Twitter is not the pseudo “free speech issue” being bandied around as if the US government is throwing people in jail over what they say on Twitter. The biggest problem with Musk acquiring Twitter is that he is now in control over an unofficial means of communication for diplomats and nation-states to convey their positions. Twitter has been elevated to the dominion of serious global politics ever since Donald Trump used it as his effective tool to convey his positions while China and others like Saudi Arabia and Iran have done the same. Trump’s positions on Twitter had a material affect as well.
Twitter is not a profitable company and I will be putting my tin-foil hat here and suspect that Elon Musk didn’t just buy Twitter to allow unfettered access to Azealia Banks and Joe Rogan. By buying Twitter Elon Musk has a tool whose reach is coveted by many nation-states like China and political groups like the Republicans and the Democrats in the US. What is probably most concerning is that China may have leverage over Musk given he needs China to expand his Tesla business there, but on this, we should not take lessons from other moguls like Jeff Bezos who did not shy away from giving privileges to the Chinese government that are not warranted to his ordinary clients.
Since Donald Trump’s presidency, China has used Twitter to convey its bellicose imperialist policy to the Western and English speaking audiences of the world. Official government media accounts like Hu Xijin’s are used to make outright threats of war occasionally verging on the nuclear. “We will fire thousands of missiles on Taiwan every day” he very recently said. But maybe this is also irrelevant and Musk is stupid enough to own a poisoned chalice. If the US reacts to China’s invasion of Taiwan in the equivalent way it reacted to Russia, then Musk would have no other option but to follow the US’s government’s and the EU’s orders.
So, maybe, Alex is shooting himself in the foot here. Musk will be obliged to respect the law anyway, and it is lawmakers who may rather be the problem with the potential risks of Musk owning Twitter. Ironically, China has plenty of leverage on the Maltese government given it literally owns a power station in Malta and half of Malta’s only energy distribution company, Enemalta. To what extent are Maltese politicians like Alex Agius Saliba ready to defend our national interests at the expense of Chinese interests? Malta faces a lot of potential risks with our Chinese relationship and this should be one of our top priorities right now, so don’t be distracted by Alex’s irrelevant antics.