Concentration of social media ownership ‘form of dictatorship’, President says

Higgins steps up criticism of billionaires seeking to control public discourse

The concentration of ownership of social media platforms has been likened to an "absurd form of dictatorship" by President Michael D Higgins.

Appearing on the Late Late Show on Friday night, the President was asked by host Ryan Tubridy about comments he had made earlier this month when he suggested that attempts by billionaires to control public discourse was "dangerous narcissism".

While he did not identify Elon Musk by name when making those comments, they were widely understood to be a criticism of the billionaire's attempted takeover of Twitter for about $44 billion.

When asked on Friday night if he was referring to Mr Musk, the President said: "It doesn't matter who I was referring to," before elaborating further on his view of the future of social media and public discourse and the dangers of concentrating ownership in the hands of a tiny number of wealthy individuals.

He said that in times past when it came to the newspaper industry “you had a kind of a code and understanding as to what was legitimate comment and so forth”.

He said if that widely accepted code was breached there were mechanisms in place for dealing with breaches but “then you get the development of social media”.

He asked: “Why would anyone say that those who can concentrate the greatest ownership should be the people who would decide how people should deal with each other in communication?”

He suggested such a concentration of ownership was “such an absurd form of dictatorship in a way, so if you’re going to have responsible communication, why would you decide that you’d look for the richest person or the group and hand them the authority? It seems absurd to me You don’t have to be a mad left-wing person to believe that, it’s just about democracy.”

Looking at the broader economic picture closer to home, Mr Higgins also questioned how society was developing and said that “essentials, like for example, in relation to food, shelter, housing and so forth should never had been regarded as something that can be sorted by the marketplace”.