Government Shouldn’t Obstruct Musk’s Twitter Purchase
Elon Musk is currently purchasing the social media company Twitter. The ongoing purchase set off a firestorm of hot takes mostly around Twitter’s content moderation practices. But another set of concerns about antitrust violations has also been raised. These concerns have only been strengthened as the Federal Trade Commission has begun investigating the purchase.
Traditionally, potential mergers or acquisitions are blocked due to the concerns about whether consumers would be made worse off by a purchase due to lack of competition. For example, if Meta, Tik-Tok, or Google attempted to purchase Twitter, consumers might have fewer options when it comes to social media. But in this circumstance Musk’s other businesses, Tesla and Space X, have no bearing on the social media realm.
Though this deal should not set off antitrust alarm bells, the Open Markets Institute, one of the leading voices for reforming antitrust laws in the United States, wrote a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, Department of Justice, and Federal Trade Commission asking them to block the deal.
Rather than focusing on what is best for consumers, Open Markets Institute argued that allowing Twitter to be purchased would put too much power in the hands of a single person.
Specifically, they write, “The most obvious problem is that the deal would give to a single man — one who already wields immense political and economic power — direct control over the world’s most important platforms for the public communication and debate.”
This argument fails traditional antitrust scrutiny as it does not show how social media users would be made worse off.
Instead, the complaint focuses on Musk gaining too much power, which is not a consideration in current antitrust law. Even this argument is flimsy since Twitter is far from the most popular social media platform in the United States.
Such an argument would likely be rejected by regulators, but given the turn of the Commission away from traditional antitrust law and toward other motivations including climate justice, democracy, and political power, an approval is not as certain as it once was.
The blockage of this merger would return antitrust law to a game stacked in favor of bureaucrats. As one former Supreme Court Justice wrote, the only consistency in antitrust cases is that “the Government always wins.”
Twitter’s potential change of ownership will likely lead to mixed reviews from users, but the government should not be involved in stopping this business deal. There is plenty of competition in the social media space and users can go to the platform that suits them best. Government should allow this sale to continue, and politicians should be wary of listening to those who want to stop it.
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