“I’m for free speech, but…”
Oh just stop, bluechecks. You are either for the right to free expression or against it. There is no but.
The liberal screaming following Elon Musk’s deal to buy Twitter is quite something.
People who make their lives speaking as reporters or commentators have launched a full-throated attack on the idea that Twitter might return to its roots as a platform for unfettered and censorship-free speech.
Not so very long ago, Twitter understood its role. When I joined in 2009, its terms of service explicitly declaimed censorship:
“All Content… is the sole responsibility of the person who originated such Content. We may not monitor or control the Content and, we cannot take responsibility for such content…”
The exceptions were quite narrow and reasonable, the same kind of speech that would have been illegal or civilly liable offline: child pornography, specific violent threats, encouraging suicide, et cetera.
Now, of course, Twitter’s terms of service and the specific rules about whet tweets are allowed are a giant mess. They stretch for pages and pages and include categories and subcategories and “strikes” and “warnings” about Covid and vaccines and elections and the best way to make ramen (I’m making that last one up, but wait for it).
Worse, Twitter’s enforcement procedures are entirely arbitrary. As we have pointed out in Berenson v Twitter, Twitter will not and cannot articulate how these two tweets (or my earlier supposedly problematic tweets) led to my expulsion by violating its stated Covid rules, because they did not:
The answer is simple: Twitter needs to go back to its earlier era, when people were allowed to say what they thought. Will the service be filled with ugliness and porn and nasty discourse? Sure.
News flash: it’s filled with those things now. Human beings like to say nasty things to each other and talk (and look) dirty:
Don’t shoot the messenger.
And are dictatorships likely to use an uncensored Twitter to make dissidents uncomfortable? Sure. News flash: dictatorships don’t need Twitter to do that.
The easiest answer for Twitter will be to say: hey, Saudi Arabia? We don’t censor, period. Not in the US, and not anywhere else. Not you, not the people criticizing you. You want to block us? Fine. But all those investors you are trying to court, they may wonder why.
In a few months, after Elon has taken Twitter back to its roots, the service will be just like it is now, only with more viewpoints and more debate. And this “controversy” will seem as bizarre as the argument over whether schools should have been closed for Covid. The same woke geniuses frothing at the mouth now about free speech will be running from their positions, just as they ran from their views on schools.
But for the moment Elon isn’t in charge, I’m still blocked, and Berenson v Twitter will go forward. (In fact I’m going to have some other interesting legal news regarding the little by early next week.) The first hearing on the case is in federal court in San Francisco on Thursday.
Let’s get ready to rrrrrrrumble!
Meanwhile, if you believe in free speech, please support me and join the fight: