The internet as we know it is a constant act of choosing some speech over others.
Google and Microsoft decide which search results appear first and which are buried on page 400. Twitter and Facebook often choose whether you come across photos from your cousin’s engagement party or the tweets of your chosen representative. Apple says yes or no to every app available in its store. Not even allowing spam to flood your inbox is a choice to set aside some kind of speech.
These decisions are choices about who gets to say what, where and to whom, and they are an inevitable and sometimes welcome part of the websites and apps where we spend our days.
In a column in the DailyExpertNews today, I looked at the thorny questions behind Elon Musk’s outline plan as the next owner of Twitter: He wants to make it a place where unfettered ideas roam largely free, as long as they don’t violate the law. law.
Follow-up questions for Musk: What if the speech violates the law in Germany or Turkey, but not in the United States? What happens when Twitter and governments disagree on the interpretation of the expression laws, including the First Amendment? Pornography is legal in the United States. It’s now not allowed on Twitter, but will it be owned by Musk? What about Chinese propaganda that undermines accusations of human rights abuses and distorts people’s views?
Social media executives have learned that defending freedom of expression is not easy in a complicated world where one person’s right to express themselves can silence another or create chaos and disrupt the definition of freedom of expression by one person. person or government is prohibited to another.
Read more about Elon Musk’s bid to buy Twitter
“Unrestricted free speech does not mean it is a truer version of free speech. It just means you make an island and drive the boys crazy like in “Lord of the Flies,” says Kate Klonick, an assistant professor of law at St. John’s University. “A well-regulated and predictable speech environment is best for free speech.”
Musk has not officially taken over Twitter and it is too early to know how he might change the balance of policing on the site. Most social media companies, including former President Donald J. Trump’s Truth Social, exist along a broad spectrum of expression between almost-anything-goes and heavy-handed nannies. Musk may have in mind to push Twitter more toward indulgence, especially when it comes to political expression protected by US law.
Musk has also suggested that he could boost some of the goals Twitter has set for itself, including eradicating more accounts that tweet malicious automated messages and providing greater transparency into the software formulas the site uses to organize what we see there. . Those ideas are not so much about freeing expression, but more about effectively restricting it in the interest of the users.
My colleague Kate Conger said in a Twitter Spaces conversation Monday that some Twitter employees were excited (and others weren’t) that Musk gave them a clean slate over the 16-year-old company’s endless turmoil, including the issue of free speech. Some tech executives and US politicians believe Musk will be a spark to give speech more breathing room.
Musk will soon have a chance to take a fresh look at Twitter, including the questions of what kinds of speech should be prioritized and how the company can deliver on a potential that has always seemed just out of reach. Twitter is influential worldwide, but has about a tenth of Facebook’s users and generates far less annual revenue than the retail chain Bed Bath & Beyond.
We all benefit when Twitter and other globally important communication and persuasion tools work effectively as places to better understand our world and open our minds. How to get there is the hardest part.
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hello here squirrel hugs (I think?) a broccoli spear†
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