I always try to get Saturday mornings and take the time to talk about the fun or cool things that Android has to offer. Though, sometimes I drift too far into something else. After reading so many words about Elon Musk and Twitter, this is going to be one of those times.
I’ll start by explaining a little bit of what I think. I hate the idea of a complete split in two. Left/right, up/down, whatever. There is always room for a gray area in between and I think people who don’t understand this are unimaginative and unintelligent.
Every person on this earth deserves to be treated with love and respect. Every person on this earth also needs to do their best to try to help themselves and others. I don’t believe in an afterlife, so I think we should all try to spend our time here to be our best self.
A lot will disagree with me and that’s fine. I’m just saying this so you don’t automatically classify me as a ‘leptard’ or a ‘crazy right-winger’ because this has happened so many times when I talk about non-Android stuff.
So let’s talk about freedom of expression, what it means, and how it applies to a social media entity like Twitter.
Freedom of expression means more than one thing
Freedom of expression means something different to each of us. For starters, what Elon Musk means when he claims he will bring freedom of speech on Twitter has nothing to do with the protections afforded to US citizens under the Constitution and its amendments.
The First Amendment applies to Twitter more than it does to you when you post something on Twitter. This is because the government cannot infringe on your right to express anything that is not actually harmful speech and Twitter is not the government. The US Supreme Court has decided that this protection extends to corporate entities such as Twitter, meaning that the company can censor you at its discretion and the government cannot interfere.
Believe it or not, screaming with fire in a crowded theater is protected by the First Amendment, just as racial insults and other rhetoric make people uncomfortable. What is not fully covered under the First Amendment is categorized into one of the following:
- child pornography
- Speech ‘an integral part of illicit behavior’
- Speech that “incites imminent illegal action”
- Speech that violates intellectual property law
- Actual threats
- Business speech and advertising
None of this applies to anyone outside the United States and Twitter does not have to allow any speech not covered by the First Amendment protections because of queen First Amendment protection.
What Musk is referring to when he says “freedom of speech” is that Twitter should stop censoring anything illegal. This means that you will be allowed to say something that makes me uncomfortable (and vice versa) but you will not be allowed to do something like commit fraud or make an actual threat of physical harm.
What could this mean for Twitter?
Perhaps this will not mean anything to Twitter. Musk…a complicated fellow who’s clearly a genius but he’s trying so hard to act like an idiot. This often makes a person seem likable but sometimes if foolishness is also distasteful, it makes one look like a fool. For many people, musk fits the latter definition, which is why so many people rush.
Personally, I think nothing will change because Musk doesn’t buy anything without a plan to earn big cash. Twitter is a goldmine of willingly provided private user data and there are many ways to monetize this data. Banishing users in bulk is not conducive to this business model.
It would also be very difficult to circumvent the current laws regarding personal public speech around the world. The European Union has its own set of rules, as does the United Kingdom, as well as India, South Africa and Brazil as well as many other countries and states. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
But I understood. People get nervous when someone with Musk’s reputation says “freedom of speech” the way he says it. Just because I think everything will work as usual doesn’t mean these people are wrong – I’m wrong as often as I am right. This might be one of those times.
I’ve spent some time reading all the fuss and found that people are concerned about a few specific things when it comes to free speech Twitter.
misinformation It is the biggest concern. There are legitimate concerns that things like elections or medical misinformation — actual and harmful misinformation like drinking your own urine as a treatment for the coronavirus or Donald Trump’s 2020 election victory — could spread. Currently, these things will cause your Twitter account to be suspended. Twitter decided that instead of allowing people to refute these claims, it would nip them in the bud because both had harmful results.
the acting It is also at the top of the list. Video and image manipulation is trivial, even when it comes to “deep fake” production where a person is digitally placed in a video they have nothing to do with. People also impersonate another person on Twitter to defraud users or discredit another person. Freedom of speech means that these things are okay. If it turns out that fraud has been committed or the reputation has been tarnished, this is a matter for the courts. You are still legal to do so in the United States
Pictorial and non-harmonic nudity are other concerns. Currently, Twitter does not allow content that depicts sexual violence or is “excessively bloody” and none of these things violate any laws. Non-consensual nudity and other intimate images distributed without consent may violate state laws, but in many areas, this is perfectly legal and will be covered under the Free Speech Project entirely.
incitement to violence Another thing people worry about is Twitter allowing it under Musk’s free speech rules. That may be true – for example, I’m allowed to say that I wish a true patriot would kill a neighbor who was mowing the lawn very early on a Saturday morning. This does not violate the laws. However, I am not allowed to say that I actually plan to do this or that I want you to get in your car and drive to my house and do it for me. This is illegal and not allowed within the US, where Twitter currently operates.
Honestly, despite the concerns, I can’t expect much of this to happen. Yes, some political figures that you don’t like on Twitter may be re-accounted for. So what? It’s trivial to ban people who claim that Jewish space lasers cause forest fires or something else objectively stupid. Life is too short to worry about letting these people act objectively stupid. And perhaps someone does not think that he is objectively stupid and wants to read about lasers. If it becomes a real problem, it can be dealt with accordingly by the right people.
But if enough people care, someone’s freedom of speech will be quickly taken away because social media companies can only exist if the herd agrees to the message.
For a company like Twitter to be profitable, it needs one thing more than any other: a large number of users. Users have to pay the subscription model, give away personal data, and users to promote and share the service until more users come. One of the first things many people do when buying one of the best Android phones is to install the Twitter app, and Twitter loves that idea.
If Twitter becomes too hostile to enough people and the numbers shrink below an acceptable level, the policy will change or the company will not be around for very long. Twitter, and any other social media company, is like a club and only exists as long as members stay there. We’ve seen what happens when someone tries to build a new social media site, and everyone from Google to former President Trump’s associates has tried and failed because the interest isn’t there.
Even if you don’t pay in physical dollars, you can still vote with your wallet and feet.