Elon Musk Should Take a Clear Stand Against Censorship by Proxy

Follow @AmmoLand News on Twitter.

censorship Facebook election interference iStock-klevo 1160557926.jpg
iStock-klevo

Washington, DC – -(AmmoLand.com)- From the outside, Twitter’s content moderation decisions look haphazard at best. From the inside, they look worse, especially because government officials play an unseemly and arguably unconstitutional role in shaping those decisions.

The internal communications that Elon Musk, Twitter’s new owner, has been gradually revealing to a select few journalists show that the company’s former executives arbitrarily applied the platform’s vague rules and surreptitiously suppressed content from disfavored accounts. The “Twitter Files” also confirm that the company had a cozy relationship with federal agencies, allowing them to indirectly censor speech they deemed dangerous.

Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist,” is trying to signal that things will be different under his ownership. He faces a daunting challenge as he attempts to implement lighter moderation policies without abandoning all content restrictions, lest Twitter become a “free-for-all hellscape” that alienates users and advertisers.

One part of that mission should be relatively straightforward.

Musk could make it clear that neither government bureaucrats nor elected officials have any business dictating what Twitter’s rules should be or how they should be enforced.

Musk took a significant step in that direction last month by rescinding Twitter’s ban on “COVID-19 misinformation,” a nebulous category that ranged from verifiably false assertions of fact to demonstrably or arguably true statements that were deemed “misleading” or contrary to government advice. That policy invited censorship by proxy, giving the Biden administration an excuse to enforce obeisance to an ever-evolving “scientific consensus” by publicly and privately pressuring Twitter to crack down on speech that officials viewed as a threat to public health.

The Twitter Files show that the company also collaborated with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in identifying and suppressing “election misinformation,” another ill-defined category open to wide interpretation. Executives enforcing that policy regularly conferred with those agencies, and they privately recognized that such coziness would be controversial if it were publicly acknowledged.

The reason for that reticence should be obvious. It is one thing for a platform to enforce its own content restrictions, even if it does so in a way that is widely viewed as unfair, inconsistent or politically biased.

But when that platform takes its cues from the government, private moderation decisions can easily become a cover for unconstitutional speech restrictions.

Because the government has the power to make life difficult for social media companies through castigation, regulation, litigation and legislation, its “requests” always carry an implicit threat. It is therefore not surprising that Twitter and other major platforms have been eager to fall in line.

Musk himself seems confused about the issues at stake here. He tends to conflate “freedom of speech” with freedom from private content restrictions and misleadingly implies that Twitter’s broad ban on “hateful conduct,” which he is still avowedly committed to enforcing, applies only to speech that fits within judicially recognized exceptions to the First Amendment.

Musk’s confusion was apparent last week, when Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said he was “demanding action” in response to an “unacceptable” rise in “hate speech” on Twitter since Musk took over the platform in late October. Musk responded by questioning the evidence that Schiff cited, saying “hate speech impressions are actually down by 1/3 for Twitter now vs prior to acquisition.”

Instead of getting bogged down in a debate about whether Twitter has in fact been overrun by bigots on his watch, Musk should have asked why Schiff thinks he has the authority to demand the censorship of speech that offends him. The First Amendment, which bars Congress from “abridging the freedom of speech,” is pretty clear on that point.

Independent journalist Glenn Greenwald laments that “dictating to social media companies what they can and can’t platform, how they must censor, the role Democratic politicians play in all this, is just assumed as normal.”

Musk is well-positioned to challenge that assumption, and he could start by telling Schiff to mind his own business.


About Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @JacobSullum. During two decades in journalism, he has relentlessly skewered authoritarians of the left and the right, making the case for shrinking the realm of politics and expanding the realm of individual choice. Jacobs’ work appears here at AmmoLand News through a license with Creators Syndicate.

Jacob Sullum
Jacob Sullum
Subscribe
Notify of
16 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
JimQ

Just release it all including who in the government sent word to Twitter to sensor information. Release it all. I don’t care about party affiliation at all.

A company working at the direction of the government becomes a government agent.

Deere Cracker

He either does not have access to that info or THEY threaten him with Arkancide

hippybiker

Schiff is a worthless scumbag; just like his not so great grandfather Jacob, who sent millions in Gold with Leon Trotsky to finance the Soviet terror in Russia! The rotten fruit doesn’t fall far from the diseased tree!

Last edited 1 month ago by hippybiker
gregs

it is amazing that the left is calling for the curbing of “hate speech” when virtually all the hate speech is coming from the left, same goes for political violence. they are straight up dictatorial ideologues that have a superiority complex when in fact they are morally and mentally deficient. if the roles were reversed they would be screaming, carrying torches and pitchforks, remember trump and all the fake scandals?

UncleT

It is “axiomatic,” the Supreme Court held in Norwood v. Harrison (1973), that the government “may not induce, encourage or promote private persons to accomplish what it is constitutionally forbidden to accomplish.”

hippybiker

Scumbags like Schiff don’t care about the Constitution, or the Supreme Court!

Last edited 1 month ago by hippybiker
musicman44mag

Don’t forget all this censorship started with obummer. He was in only 3 months and wanted to shut down all PBS stations. At that time they leaned heavily conservative. Now they are a propaganda arm for the left. See what happens when big government steps in and wants to get rid of you or say it our way or else. You bend over and take it rather than say I Will Not Comply. Welcome to Germany with big government being our Hitler of today.
Oregoneistan

gregs

don’t know which pbs stations you watched or listened to but they have not aired conservative programs for quite some time.

DIYinSTL

I used to listen to NPR a lot; driving to and from work it was the only broadcast media I made time for. I have no recollection of it ever leaning right though with the presence of Susan Stamberg and company it was very pro-Israel. Mostly I remember it as being ‘informative’ without giving any facts.

totbs

There’s nothing conservative about NPR. Never has been. Not even middle of the road. At least not in my seven decades.

Last edited 1 month ago by totbs
swmft

on occasion they have inadvertently stumbled on truth and reported it

Deere Cracker

Apparently the CENSORS are alive and well on this site too!!
My earlier post has yet to appear
Truth be known
All Social Media is Operated by the Fed Gov
Go to The Conservative TreeHouse AKA “The Last Refuge”and do a search for
Jack’s Magic CoffeeShop

Deere Cracker

The Truth Shall Set You Free!

Sarah

My Companion mother makes 50 bucks an hour on the PC(Personal Computer). She has been out of w0rk for quite some time however last month her check was 11,500 bucks only w0rking on the PC(Personal Computer) for 9 hours per day.
For more detail visit this article.. https://payathome.blogspot.com/

Last edited 1 month ago by Sarah
hippybiker

Peddle your money laundering BS somewhere else!