The writer is director of international policy at Stanford University’s Center for Cyber Policy
After weeks of speculation about the style and influence of the alleged new owner, it is unclear whether Elon Musk will buy Twitter. After announcing a $ 44 billion bid, he complained about it number of fake accounts on a social media platform and said the deal would not “move forward” until Twitter provided satisfactory data on the scale of the problem.
Be that as it may, the lull allows anyone who is excited or concerned about the prospect that the richest man on Earth has a powerful online platform to sum up. Musk, of course, had a lot of fun tweeting about what he would do if he took responsibility for the social network for politicians, journalists and activists. However, humorous tweets will not go away the difficult choices associated with curating speech online. Musk can benefit from having to catch up on some of the lessons we’ve already learned about platform management.
He promised to lead Twitter as an “absolute freedom of speech”, including by returning Donald Trump’s bill, his megaphone. He further stated: “By freedom of speech I just mean what is in accordance with the law. I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law. ”
Here he will face trouble and the need to compromise. Both statements are clearly contradictory. Most Twitter users are not Americans living under protection first amendment.
Globally, many laws seek to restrict freedom of expression or at least prescribe the conditions under which freedom of speech may be restricted. Governments, both democratic and non-democratic, are seeking greater legal control over what can and what is unacceptable to say and share on the Internet. We see strict restrictive laws in autocracies such as Saudi Arabia. In Iran and Myanmar, access to the platform is blocked. And last year, Twitter lost a tough legal battle in India over liability for illegal content posted by users.
Ironically, by declaring that it will respect domestic law rather than universal human rights principles, Musk will eventually support the suppression or restriction of large numbers of speeches in many parts of the world.
In the U.S., maintaining the interest of various users and their greetings on Twitter is likely to go beyond the minimum legal requirements for speech. The spread of conspiracy theories, racial discrimination or foreign interference in democratic processes – all this has caused widely recognized harm. The protection of democratic and civil rights, public safety and health has forced social media platforms to limit hateful, deceptive, but formally legitimate statements. Perhaps it turns out that what works for human rights is also good for business.
The EU has recently issued such requirements and agreed on a new law Digital Services Act. It clarifies the responsibilities of platform companies like Twitter when it comes to combating malicious speech. Transparency and accountability are enhanced to combat anything from the sale of illegal goods to the concealment of important data from researchers.
The provisions in the law also remind that the management of social networking platforms involves more than addressing speech issues. Given the size of the EU as a market, the DSA is likely to inspire corporate behavior outside the bloc.
In the inconvenient video, Musk and EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said they agreed with the essence of the new European rules. However, one thing is for sure: the DSA does not aim to ensure absolute freedom of speech.
Last weekend, American and European leaders met in Paris on transatlantic trade and technology. Last month, they signed the Declaration on the Future of the Internet, which essentially obliges them to govern it more democratically.
Upholding the basic principle of freedom of expression is one thing; It is a different matter to solve many issues related to maintaining the trust of a large group of different users in the social networking platform. The simple assertion that speech will be protected does not answer the number of neuralgic questions about exactly how this should be done online.
Lawmakers in many democracies have gone beyond the false dichotomy of absolutism of freedom of speech against top-down control of speech. Now Mask, or any other future owner of the company on social networks, we advise you to catch up.