By purchasing Twitter, Elon Musk will face the reality of his speech in a free voice

“We need to protect free speech to make our democracy work,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute. “But there’s a lot of distance to cover from that premise to the kinds of decisions social media companies have to make every day.”

Hardly any place on the Internet or in the physical world is an area of ​​absolute freedom of expression. The online expression challenge is the expression challenge, period, with questions that have few simple answers: when is it better to talk more and when is it worse? And who decides?

In countries with strong courts, civic groups, and media outlets to hold politicians accountable, it can be relatively benign when elected leaders talk garbage about their opponents online. But in countries like Myanmar, Saudi Arabia and Somalia, government leaders have used social media as a weapon to subject their critics to relentless verbal harassment, to spread unchecked lies, or to incite ethnic violence.

If Twitter wants to withdraw from moderating the speech on its site, will people be less willing to go out where they could be harassed by those who disagree with them and inundated with cryptocurrency propositions, fake Gucci bags or pornography?

The 2016 US presidential election and the same year’s Brexit vote gave Silicon Valley executives, US elected officials, and the public a glimpse into what can go wrong when social media companies choose not to delve into what people do. they say on their sites. Russian propagandists amplified the views of deeply divided Americans and British, further polarizing the electorate.

During Trump’s presidency, particularly in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic and then when Trump and his supporters leaked false claims about election fraud in the 2020 election, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube changed their tune about the role they played in fanning anger, lies, distortions and divisions that have left some people exhausted and cynical of the world around them.

Twitter and Facebook, sometimes under pressure from their employees, have taken additional steps to delete or label posts that might break their rules against false information, and have tinkered with computer systems to prevent viral lies from spreading far and wide. wide. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube also kicked Trump off their platforms following the January 6, 2021 Capitol uprising.

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