In the end, the money spoke. After a period of tumultuous and acrimonious courtship, Twitter announced on Monday that it had reached a $44 billion deal for enigmatic billionaire Elon Musk to buy the popular microblogging company.
“I hope even my worst critics stay on Twitter, because that’s what free speech means.” tweeted Musk also promised to add “new features, making algorithms open source to increase trust, defeat spam bots, and authenticate all humans.”
With Twitter headed for private ownership, here are seven outsiders’ opinions on how the billionaire should serve as a caretaker of the speech rights and security concerns of millions of the service’s users.
David Kaye, director of the International Justice Clinic and co-director of the Center for Fair Elections and Free Speech at UC Irvine School of Law
“I would love to see Elon Musk do two things. First, he should emphasize the transparency part of his critique, opening up Twitter to more disclosure about how he sets the rules and enforces them. Second, it must ditch its limited version of elementary school free speech, in which the single speaker is all that matters, in favor of one that understands the unique public role that Twitter plays not just for speakers of high profile but also for the marginalized. and for the audience. He should think of Twitter not as a public square but as a public broadcaster and strengthen Twitter’s contribution to the public interest. Reinforce his commitment to human rights standards, as well as hey tweet he loves humanity. If he is the owner, he must take away the role of governing it: let others make the decisions based on human rights standards, the only ones that make sense for a global platform, otherwise he will soon discover that every decision he makes will reinforce the feeling that he is the ultimate arbiter of online discourse. And that, in the long run, will be bad for him, bad for Twitter and bad for public debate.”
Eugene Volokh, Professor of First Amendment Law at UCLA
“I think that, in general, Twitter should see its role more like that of a phone company or an email system: providing ways for people to talk to other people (especially when actively seeking such conversations) without controlling what people say. people. We wouldn’t want a phone company to cut off the phone lines that a political group uses to communicate with the public, even if the phone company thinks the group is spreading falsehoods or bad ideas, the same, I think, for Twitter and @RealDonaldTrump, or Twitter and Babylon Bee labeling a transgender admiral ‘Man of the Year’ after Time labeled the admiral ‘Woman of the Year.’”
“We saw reactionary right-wingers saying that [Twitter co-founder and former Chief Executive] Jack Dorsey was censoring the truth and needed to be held accountable. You also had Valerie Plame, who wanted to buy twitter, kick Trump and avoid nuclear war for the sake of democracy. But neither of those examples was accountability or democracy: that is having a superior power at the service of your agenda, if interests align for a moment. What you think you want from a strong man is not going to happen. You’re missing that middle layer of deliberative ability. There are many experiments that we can do right now. Borrow from some proven models that are simple, but haven’t quite entered people’s imaginations, like some kind of council or jury. If you’re trying to build true trust and safety on a platform, an industry standard is to assume everyone is a stalker. Therefore, a logical approach is to heavily weight the contributions of people who are typical targets of harassment and hate speech. Let them be the ones to develop a new code of conduct or terms or service.”
Robby Soave, Senior Editor at Reason
“Elon Musk’s best bet would be to delegate content curation to individual users. Many on the right are frustrated with Twitter’s inconsistently enforced rules, regardless of whether they’re enforced by algorithms or human employees of the company; many progressives, on the other hand, fear that lax moderation will mean more misinformation or harassment. The least polarizing way forward is to give users more means to control their own feeds. If you have a low tolerance for unpleasantness, you should be able to activate a setting that protects you from the worst that can appear on the platform. If you prefer the Wild West, there should be a setting for you too.”
Ellen L. Weintraub, Commissioner of the US Federal Election Commission.
“One of Twitter’s challenges in supporting democracy is to prevent the spread of disinformation like wildfire. And content moderation isn’t the only way to curb misinformation. A forest fire requires not only a spark to start the fire, but also wind to fan the flames. On Twitter, algorithms are the wind. Musk says that he wants to open up Twitter’s algorithms. But the effects of algorithms don’t depend on whether you can find their source code on Github. It’s how they’re tuned. At the moment, the algorithms of social media companies ‘exploit the basic human compulsion to react to shocking material,’ as I wrote in the Georgetown Legal Technology Magazine in 2020. These algorithms are business practice; they are not a matter of freedom of expression. Musk would do well to return Twitter to its roots with a chronological timeline that includes content only from Twitter users one follows. And adding a bit of friction to the mix would be nice too. You can reduce virality and increase consideration without overloading the speech. This would allow Musk to bring Twitter closer to a ‘digital plaza where issues vital to the future of humanity are debated’ without accelerating the damage to the world’s democracies.” (via Twitter)
Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP
Musk: Free speech is wonderful, hate speech is unacceptable. Misinformation, misinformation and hate speech have NO PLACE on Twitter. don’t allow 45 [former President Trump] to return to the platform. Don’t let Twitter become a petri dish for hate speech or falsehoods that subvert our democracy. Protecting our democracy is of the utmost importance, especially as the midterm elections approach. Mr. Musk: There are lives in danger, as is American democracy.” (via Statement)
Brianna Wu, Executive Director of Rebellion PAC, Former Congressional Candidate, and Software Engineer
“Triple the budget of the Trust and Security Teamand let professionals who understand how to address Twitter’s inborn problems with harassment do their job.”