The left is up in arms about Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s announced acquisition of Twitter because of Musk’s pledge to transform Twitter into a platform for free speech. Since the left has been extraordinarily successful at using Twitter to censor conservatives, they are running scared at the idea that alternative viewpoints could emerge in the Twittersphere.
As reported in Politico’s Morning Tech, the left is laying the groundwork to block or otherwise sabotage Musk’s acquisition of Twitter on antitrust grounds. While the left’s case is virtually nonexistent, the idea that they would attempt to use antitrust in this fashion should spook Republicans who may be on the fence of supporting liberal antitrust “reforms.”
Barry Lynn, director of the left-wing Open Markets Institute, sketched out a circuitous argument for the FTC, FCC, and DOJ’s “ample authority” to block Musk’s acquisition. Lynn claims that several laws dating back to 1860 as well as Article I of the Constitution require that “essential” communications infrastructure retain “full openness and neutrality.” Lynn cites Musk’s ownership of satellite provider Starlink as reason enough for the government to swoop in and block him from acquiring Twitter.
It is important to note that these ideas enjoy support at the highest levels of the Biden Administration. Lynn’s protégé, Lina Khan, is Chair of the Federal Trade Commission.
Even setting aside the dubious legal reasoning at work here, there are two major problems with this argument. One, Twitter is certainly not “essential infrastructure” by any metric – in 2022, Twitter had around 76 million users in the United States. Second, Twitter has never had “full openness and neutrality.” One of Musk’s stated goals is restoring free speech on the platform, and has said that the only reason Twitter competitors popped up is because the platform was censoring dissenting viewpoints.
The left’s histrionic reaction to Musk’s acquisition of Twitter indicates how they would like to use antitrust action to punish politically disfavored individuals or companies. In their desperation to prevent Musk from taking Twitter private, antitrust hipsters believe that antitrust can and should be used to block the acquisition. To be clear, the left doesn’t object to this acquisition on competition grounds – they simply don’t like the deal and want the government to come in and stop it.
Antitrust bills going through Congress right now would give sweeping new powers to the Biden DOJ and FTC to target and harass American companies. In no world would conservatives be better off under this expansive new antitrust regime. Time and time again, the left proves that giving the government more antitrust authority would empower bureaucrats to abuse their new powers to pursue narrow, ideological ends.
Republican lawmakers should keep a close eye on the left’s reaction to the Twitter acquisition, as it foreshadows the logical endpoint of how the left wants antitrust law to operate.