What Elon Musk’s Bid Says About Twitter’s ‘Free Speech Issue’

Whater turned Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s tentative moves to acquire Twitter, the movie surrounding his bid tells us something about the problems the communication giant has social media faces — and possibly many journalists’ dysfunctional relationships with it.

For one thing, conservative complaints about Twitter censorship are often met with the positive response that the social networking site is not a true “public town square” with equal access, but a Private company can write and enforce its own rules and enforce them as they please, the way one would do in one’s living room. Yes, from a legal standpoint. However, many libertarians and progressives who voiced dismay at Musk’s offer to buy Twitter confirm that they, in fact, view the company as playing a vital role in the business. determining the scope of the mainstream conversation.

Robert Reich, a former U.S. Secretary of Labor and a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, laments that Musk is seeking to “control one of the most important ways in which the public today receives news.” ” and “becoming the wizard behind the curtain” determine what is projected onto the world’s computer screens. Max Boot, a one-time conservative pundit now affiliated with Democrats due to his opposition to Donald Trump, even suggest on Twitter that there is reason to worry about the future of democracy if Musk wants to buy the platform.

If Twitter is of such importance, it’s less of a living room than a “town square” (as Musk recently asserted in a TED talk). Of course, this does not mean that Twitter management should be legally bound by First Amendment speech protections. That means those worried about preserving a truly liberal social and political culture have good reason to push back if Twitter’s policies restrict legal speech or the laying of fingers. the ideological thing on the scale.

They have? I have no doubt that a lot of right-wing complaints about repression on Twitter are grievance politics. For example, in a recent study led by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, two-thirds of “strongly Republican” Twitter users said that suspending accounts promotes conspiracy theories. QAnon’s about global pedophile taxis is “anti-conservative”. The same study found that in the six months after the 2020 election, pro-Trump accounts were nearly 5 times more likely to be suspended on Twitter than pro-Joe Biden accounts — but the trend of pro-Trump accounts as spreading disinformation, judged as such by a politically balanced panel, could explain much of this disparity.

However, the lack of transparency in Twitter’s enforcement of rules, including bans and removals of tweets — as well as in the workings of Twitter’s algorithms that help drive some stories and hashtags, and hide other stories — prone to biased claims.

One might think that the Hunter Biden laptop story is a side story and still believe Twitter’s decision to block incoming links. New York Post its story in the fall of 2020 is driven less by concerns about the integrity of the information than by worries that it will be weaponized by the right. It remains unclear whether Twitter at one point blocked content that referred to a “laboratory leak theory” about the origins of COVID-19. (The Daily Beast has asked Twitter for clarification, but has yet to receive a response.)

Another controversial area where bias has been accused – and not only by conservatives, but also by radical feminists – is transgenderism. User has banned, suspended and otherwise censored not only to attack specific transgender women, but to make general statements such as: “All rapists are men. Under UK law, a person with a penis is allowed to commit rape”. Meanwhile, the tweets seem to call for violent rape by a mainstream, center-left journalist who has been accused of phobias for writing about the intricacies of transgenderism for minors who are allowed to stay.

This is not about intentional discrimination but about the instinctive progressive bias of many top employees at Twitter. Del Harvey, a Twitter veteran who served as the company’s vice president for trust and safety to the end October, has been fairly open about its belief that preventing “harm” to “disadvantaged” users — women, racial minorities, LGBT people, etc. — should be a priority. However, at best, this is the best prescription for nannyism (especially since radical discourse defines “harm” so broadly) and at worst, political bias.

… a lack of transparency in Twitter’s enforcement of rules, including bans and deletions of tweets — and in the workings of Twitter’s algorithms that help drive certain stories and hashtags and hide other stories — prone to claims of bias.

Where did Musk come from? His politics aren’t easy to stick with (he fought against the “fascist” COVID-19 lockdowns, but quit Trump’s business councils after the administration pulled out of the climate accord. Paris). However, his broad liberalism and criticism of Twitter for “de facto bias” fueled fears that he would make Twitter a free place for all neo-Nazis, Holocausts, QAnon fanatics and those who oppose those who oppose.

In his TED talk, Musk confirmed that he would be wrong to speak more as long as it is not prohibited by law. Whether or not Musk’s Twitter will allow all constitutionally protected speech (i.e. almost anything but threats and defamation) remains unclear. However, a few of his suggestions — making the algorithm Twitter uses to promote and remove content transparent, and rely more on “timeouts” than permanent bans — seem constructive.

Some concerns are related to Musk’s personal upheaval, such as the 2018 incident in which he got into an argument with a British cave explorer working on rescuing trapped teenagers. trapped in a cave in Thailand and called him “pedo guy”. But perhaps, Musk as Twitter CEO will still rely on advisors and employees to run it. And if he runs it erratically, sane users will ignore it right away — which many might say is the best thing to happen to our democracy.

I won’t go that far. However, I think a potentially good lesson from the Musk/Twitter story is to remind us to rethink the extent to which we’ve made Twitter our “town square” — given that only 1 Five in five Americans use it, and 10% of users provide 80 percent of the content. (Notably, Twitter’s censorship of anti-vaxx and vote-rigging conspiracy theories hasn’t stopped a large section of the population from embracing them.)

Part of Twitter’s overwhelming importance is that it is the game of choice for the media and political activists. It can be a useful tool for news gathering and discussion, but it can also create pseudo-consensus that is increasingly remote from the real world. Too many journalists are married to Twitter.

If the prospect that this marriage could lead them to collaborate with Musk is a sobering or even frightening thought, it may be time for some sense of separation.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/what-elon-musks-bid-says-about-twitters-free-speech-problem?source=articles&via=rss What Elon Musk’s Bid Says About Twitter’s ‘Free Speech Issue’


Hung is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Hung joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: hung@interreviewed.com.

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