I’ve often wondered what would happen if Twitter went bust or took its moderation responsibilities seriously: would it be a good or a bad thing for President Donald Trump? The question is kind of moot: the company’s CEO has made it pretty clear that he has no intention of banning the president from the platform, and why would he? Twitter is struggling, and Trump is one of the few surefire ways the company has of making money. If the leader of the free world triggers a nuclear war via hashtag, then that’s just the price of doing business.
But what if the site were bought out by someone who wanted to actually enforce its terms of service? Valerie Plame Wilson – a former CIA operations officer – is hoping to find out, via a crowdfund.
“Twitter is a publicly traded company. Shares = power,” writes Plame Wilson on the GoFundMe page. “This GoFundMe will fund the purchase of a controlling interest in Twitter.”
To be clear, this isn’t your average Kickstarter looking for a few hundred dollars: to get a controlling share in the platform, Plame Wilson is seeking a whopping $US1 billion – and even that seems unlikely to convince Twitter to slaughter its egotistical cash cow, given Twitter was hoping to sell for between $18 and $30 billion just a year ago.
And, as things stand, even raising a billion dollars feels like a longshot. At the time of writing, Plame Wilson has raised just over $33,000 (though that figure has gone up by several hundred dollars while I’ve been writing). The current disconnect between the target and the amount raised prompted a fairly dismissive statement from the White House which told the LA Times that the relatively small pot demonstrated that the American people secretly love Trump’s use of Twitter. “Her ridiculous attempt to shut down his First Amendment is the only clear violation and expression of hate and intolerance in this equation,” the statement continued.
(Side note: the First Amendment actually only states that governments can’t curtail free speech – it has nothing to say about private companies doing so, as the White House well knows. Ironically, Trump is actually being sued for blocking people on Twitter as some legal minds believe that does violate the 1st Amendment.)
Nonetheless, the broader point of the White House’s response stands: Plame Wilson is very unlikely to raise a billion dollars, so what happens to the money? “If we can’t get a majority interest, we’ll explore options for buying a significant stake in the company and champion this proposal at the annual shareholder meeting,” writes Plame Wilson, which you can imagine making her a popular figure in the board room for the next three to seven years, though it would align her with at least one other director.
“If that’s impossible for any reason or if there is a surplus from this campaign, 100% of the balance of proceeds will be donated to Global Zero, a nonprofit organisation leading the resistance to nuclear war.”
Of course, imagine for a second that Plame Wilson is able to raise over a billion dollars. There’s always the chance that it could open a bidding war between her and Trump who himself is estimated to be worth between $3.5 and $10 billion. Now that would raise a 1st Amendment crisis.