Twitter vs. Musk: Tesla boss’ free-speech campaign decoded; What does it mean

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Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk believes it is important to have an “inclusive arena for free speech”. The Tesla and SpaceX boss told TEDx’s Chris Anderson, “It’s very important that there is an inclusive arena for free speech. Twitter has become a sort of de facto public square. He added that it is imperative that “people have both the reality and the perception that they are able to speak freely within the confines of the law.”

He added: “And so one of the things that I think Twitter should do is open up the algorithm and make changes to people’s tweets, whether they’re boosted or muted, that action should be returned. apparent so that everyone can see that action has been taken. Musk said this would be essential to avoid “behind-the-scenes manipulation, either algorithmically or manually.”

This isn’t the first time Musk has spoken out about Twitter’s de facto bias, however. The business mogul said in a tweet on March 24, “I’m concerned that the de facto biases in the ‘Twitter Algorithm’ are having a major effect on public discourse. How do we know what is really going on? »

Twitter’s relationship to freedom of expression

But the debatable question remains: does Twitter have a problem with free speech?

Visiting researcher at the Observer Research Foundation, Shashidhar KJ points out that for social media platforms, things are not so simple and the rules of freedom of expression apply selectively. He told Business Today: “Social media platforms are starting to play the role of speech. It is difficult for the government to regulate them and also for the company.

He also said that Twitter’s enforcement of the rules depends on four factors: trying to safeguard their business interests, allowing all kinds of speech on its platform, the political nuances of a particular geography and region, and being attentive to the laws and regulations of the country.

He added that platforms like Twitter are caught between a rock and a hard place as it follows government rules in different geographies on the one hand and abides by its own policies on the other.

Shashidhar highlights how social media companies began cracking down on far-right social media handles after the January 6 Capitol riots, while adding that they failed to replicate the same in India in due to the extremely varied political nuances of the subcontinent.

Also, as he points out, calling Twitter a “town square” – which Musk did – is fundamentally incorrect because it’s more like a private park where people walk and say things because they’re allowed to talk. but they don’t. have the right to force someone to listen.

“As much as you say it’s a town square, it’s a private park. There are a lot of rules and companies can do a lot of things,” he says.

Unlike Shashidhar, Stanford Internet Observatory technical research manager Renée DiResta told The Atlantic: “Opaque moderation decisions and ad hoc reactive policies have undermined public trust; playing mole with rumors or responding to propaganda with fact checks seems to have led to more animosity and entrenchment, not less.

DiResta further states that Twitter has struggled to develop content moderation rules that mitigate instances of fake news and misinformation while keeping free speech intact, implying that social networks become unmanageable when they exceed a certain size.

But there are also extreme voices that say Twitter as it exists today is more of a threat and needs a complete overhaul.

Jason Miller, CEO of right-wing microblogging site Gettr, is one such voice. He recently told the NYT that Musk had made it clear that Twitter needed a complete overhaul to be saved and that its direction needed to be changed.

Miller noted, “Musk has made it clear that to be saved, Twitter needs a complete dismantling of the foundation, its leadership removed, and the politically discriminatory ideologues running day-to-day operations replaced.”

(With contributions from The Atlantic, New York Times)

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