Following Elon Musk’s $44 billion buyout offer for Twitter being accepted on Monday, it has been revealed that the Open Markets Institute pushed for the federal government to block the sale.
In a press release issued by the institute the day after the sale was announced, the Open Markets Institute said the sale "poses a number of immediate and direct threats to American democracy and free speech."
"Open Markets also believes the deal violates existing law, and that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have ample authority to block it," wrote OMI Director Barry Lynn.
"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 one of world’s most important platforms for public communications and debate," the statement read.
The statement cites Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, the Telegraph Acts of 1860 and 1866, the Mann-Elkins Act of 1910, and the Communications Act of 1934, saying that "American people have an absolute right to ensure the full openness and neutrality of all essential public infrastructure."
Lynn also states that "Americans have also repeatedly used our antitrust laws to prevent concentrations of power over communications, debate, and news," saying Musk’s ownership of Starlink, a satellite internet service, and his takeover of Twitter mirrors AT&T’s takeover of Time-Warner, "an effort which failed because the DOJ filed a poor case," he noted.
Lynn closed out the statement by saying "Elon Musk’s effort to buy Twitter is not the only threat to free communications and debate in the United States. The size, scope and business models of Facebook, Google, and Amazon also pose a wide variety of often extreme threats to American democracy and the basic rights of citizens."
"That’s why law enforcers and Congress should view this deal as an opportunity to firmly reestablish clear bans on any manipulation of communications by essential platforms, and to eliminate all business models that rely on such manipulation," Lynn said.
Open Markets says that it "uses research and journalism to expose the dangers of monopolization, identifies changes in policy and law to address them, and educates policymakers, academics, movement groups, and other influential stakeholders to establish open, competitive markets that support a strong, just, and inclusive democracy."
"We focus especially closely on the new and growing threats that online “platform monopolies” pose to the free exchange of news, information, and ideas," Open Markets says.
In response to OMI’s request, Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Brendan Carr called it "absurd" for the FCC to try to block the sale.
"The FCC has no authority to block Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, and to suggest otherwise is absurd. I would welcome the full FCC making it clear that we will not entertain these types of frivolous argument," Carr said.
In a statement to Fox Business, Carr added, "It does not surprise me to see that some interest groups are planning on throwing the kitchen sink at this transaction in an effort to derail it."
"Of course, the FCC has no authority to block this transaction. And while I am not in a position to speak for the DOJ or the FTC -- the other agencies that were identified in that Open Markets Institute release -- I am not aware of any basis upon which any federal agency can block it," he said. "But I defer to those agencies to speak to the scope of their authorities."
"Suffice [it] to say, it is far from clear that the groups objecting to this transaction are going to do so because they're interested in the neutral application of competition and antitrust laws -- these efforts look like a move motivated by a desire to prevent the free exchange of political views on Twitter," Carr concluded.
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