Twitter: Will Elon Musk, the world’s number one billionaire, be able to give full freedom of expression?

Twitter Elon Musk is also not rich enough to allow complete freedom of expression. In the online age, the fact that we spend most of our time in private spaces earning advertising revenue for billionaires is perceived by many as an insult to human dignity. is seen in.

Elon Musk is the number one billionaire in the world. If anyone can turn cyberspace into an “absolute” heaven – or hell – of free expression through a US$44 billion Twitter takeover, then surely this is the man. right? When free market giants like Musk or Jeff Bezos (who bought the Washington Post in 2013) take charge of major mass-media outlets, concerns are raised about freedom of expression, an essential component of democratic participation. This gives rise to widespread concerns about the ever-increasing privatization of public forums. In the online age, the fact that we spend most of our time in private spaces earning advertising revenue for billionaires is seen by many as an insult to human dignity. The Twitter deal only transfers ownership from one set of its private hands to another, but the fact that the world’s richest (and controversial) billionaire is involved, makes it worse. But the reality is more complex. An ideal of free expression in our memories is that there was once a “town hall” or “public square” where citizens came together equally to debate fresh issues.

Every thought could be freely circulated because an enlightened citizen would separate the truth from the untruth, the good from the evil. The elected representatives of the people then took decisions according to the “will of the people” and formulated policies accordingly. Those images of a town hall or a public square are considered public in the fullest sense – they are freely open to all, and no private citizen owns them. In fact, no such place ever existed, at least not in modern democracies. Over the years, blasphemy laws in many Western countries banned people’s ability to speak clearly, which, at the time, far exceeded the influence of the Church on public policy. More importantly, women, ethnic minorities, colonized people and others often enjoyed nothing like the privilege of speaking freely on a public platform, let alone being equal citizens. Yet myths often contain an element of truth.

There is no doubt that protests and discontent in public places have now largely shifted to online media platforms, which are owned and operated by private companies. (We still have street demonstrations here, yet they rely on online propaganda to drive their numbers.) Public Power Yet we should not underestimate, if not overestimate, the power of private media interests. needed. Around the same day that Musk’s Twitter deal collapsed, the European Union announced it would create a Digital Services Act. It prohibits content promoting terrorism, child sexual abuse, indecent (as defined broadly by the European Union), propaganda, commercial fraud, and other things that cause problems for personal safety or a democratic society. For will significantly increase the powers of the block. , I must say, as I have written elsewhere, that I disagree with many elements of EU law and similar rules in the UK, but that is not the point here.

The thing is, even Musk’s billions won’t protect him. He can go ahead and fire all of Twitter’s speech monitors if he wants to, but it won’t take him long to reassign them. For each category of content covered in EU law, heavy fines can be imposed for violations, so the only way to avoid fines would be to continue monitoring. In fact, why were these monitors already installed? It was not because Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other online platforms started out with a deep social conscience. Quite the contrary: they reportedly started out as absolutists in the name of free expression, which Musk now considers himself to be. As American companies, they assumed that they would abide by the free expression law set forth under the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Since the 1960s, the US Supreme Court has considered the First Amendment to allow more provocative speech than in other countries.

Nonetheless, and contrary to popular belief, even US law regarding freedom of expression is by no means absolutist and has never been. The velocity of expression is controlled, such as restricted military data, professional confidentiality agreements, and details of jury proceedings, citing only a few of the many examples. As I explain in my 2016 book, Hate Speech and Democratic Citizenship, no society has ever allowed full free expression, nor is it something that any legal system would have the means to maintain. . Our arguments about regulation are always about degree, and never about all-or-nothing.

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