Does Twitter Really Have a Free Speech Problem?
One big problem with Musk’s understanding of free speech laws
We’ve all heard of Elon Musk’s recent purchase of Twitter. And some of us have even suffered through the interview TED released with Musk recently where he was announcing that purchase.
On Twitter, many on the center-right are hoping for brighter days for free speech. “This is the end of shadow-banning,” they claim. “This is the end of censorship.” Despite the fact that these hopes ignore that all views (no matter political persuasion) have been and will be censored, they also rely on one major false claim about Twitter’s “free speech problem”: it is impossible to universalize free speech laws for a platform with users with different national free speech laws.
I used to be a bigger fan of Musk, but I am finding him increasingly incoherent. It is enough to watch any one interview with Musk to realize that he speaks in the abstract. When listening to his views, your imagination has to do much of the work.
That is not to say that Musk is not a highly successful businessman or that he doesn’t deserve, at least some of his success. He built PayPal, sold it, made a lot of money, and now he owns Neuralink, Tesla, SpaceEx, and (now) Twitter. Clearly, he’s doing something right.
In society, however, we tend to take these tech-mogul billionaires too seriously and grant them too much credit. They are good at making money. And the path to making money is usually done by exploiting others. It is also concerning that billionaires, who have every reason to, at least, preserve their wealth to upkeep their lifestyles, influence the state of our elections and progression of democracy, as was clear from Mark Zuckerberg’s influence on Donald Trump’s election in 2016, in the United States.
So, why did Musk buy Twitter, in the first place?
When defending his purchase of Twitter, Musk said that he did it primarily to defend free speech. Well, that is an expensive ordeal for a company that has for the last decade only had a net income for two consecutive years (2018–19).
I am not necessarily putting Musk’s personal intentions to defend free speech on Twitter…