Dave Portnoy says free speech headed down ‘slippery slope’ as moguls purchase social platforms

Kanye West announces acquisition of Parler, as Elon Musk tells Dave Portnoy he has a plan to address Twitter bots

Barstool Sports founder and CEO Dave Portnoy weighed in on the future of free speech in America Wednesday, telling "Varney & Co.," that it’s headed down a "slippery slope" as Kanye West acquires free-speech app Parler and Elon Musk confirms a plan to combat Twitter bots.

"They're all buying because of the different platforms, because they think they got regulated a little bit on it. And I don't think that's a bad thing; it's always a fine line in the sand with any of that stuff. Who gets to decide what's over the line?" Portnoy told host Stuart Varney.

"Twitter has plenty of examples of really bad people who don't get banned, and then they'll kick Trump off, and I don't care how you feel on either of them, but who gets to make that decision?" he posited. "And the truth of the matter is, technology is now like freedom of the press, but they're privately owned. So it's a slippery slope."

Monday morning, rapper and fashion mogul Ye West, formerly known as Kanye, announced his acquisition of conservative, free-speech social platform Parler. In a FOX Business exclusive interview that day, Parlement Technologies CEO George Farmer - who runs Parler’s parent company - said "Parler needs Ye in many ways, because Parler needs this brand to expand."


Later Monday night, Portnoy personally complained in a tweet to Musk that he was seeing too many bots on Twitter. Musk responded to Portnoy's post, saying, "I have a plan."

Dave Portnoy at basketball game

Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports, says free speech in American is headed down a "slippery slope" on "Varney & Co." Wednesday, October 19, 2022. (Getty Images)

West and Musk will soon join former President Donald Trump and his Truth Social as leaders, and celebrities, in the highly-competitive technology sector.

In May, Musk threatened to back out of his bid to buy Twitter for $44 billion, citing concern over the number of bot and spam accounts on the platform. Musk has said he believes the bots make up upwards of 20% of accounts on Twitter.

Bots are automated accounts that help drive traffic on Twitter. They appear like real accounts controlled by a person. They retweet posts, like posts and follow other accounts. Advertisers, marketing agencies and other companies are looking to reach real human accounts, not bots.

"Good luck to [Musk] because Twitter is becoming unusable," Portnoy said. "I'm getting botted to death. If you say anything on Twitter, it's not just me, [it's] a lot of people. And to be honest, that was sort of what Elon started pulling back [on] when he agreed to buy it. He said, 'Well, I want to see how many fake users and how many bots you have,’ … It's a debacle."

While Portnoy clarified he and Musk didn’t discuss specific details about his plan to combat spam bots, Portnoy feels Musk has been more concerned about his celebrity status than business ventures.

"I've gone back and forth on Elon," the Barstool Sports founder said. "It seems like he's gone from running Tesla to really loving being a celebrity. He's turned more into a celebrity mogul, or embracing that. And also, I don't know how he has time to reply on Twitter to everything. I find him a little bit insufferable lately."

"He's definitely brilliant, but if I was a Tesla shareholder, I'd be like, ‘Why don't you concentrate on Tesla rather than all this other stuff you're doing?’" Portnoy added. "And I honestly don't think he wanted to buy Twitter. I think he pigeonholed himself."


A judge in Delaware has given Musk until October 28 to close the acquisition of Twitter after he disclosed his plans to go through with the purchase. A trial was initially scheduled for October 17.

Twitter has also said in an October 6 court filing that Musk is under federal investigation regarding the acquisition of the platform, although what exactly he may be probed for is unclear. It is also not clear which federal authorities are conducting the investigations.


FOX Business’ Landon Mion contributed to this report.