Free speech could cost Elon Musk $61 billion

2 weeks ago 38


November 21, 2022 — 10.29am

November 21, 2022 — 10.29am

I woke up yesterday, looked astatine my to-do database and saw that the apical point was: “Delete your Twitter account”. I hadn’t really tweeted successful years, truthful it was thing of a quiescent protest, but Elon Musk giving Donald Trump the greenish airy to usage the bluish vertebrate was the last straw.

Why americium I, and galore of my friends and colleagues, ditching the platform? And possibly much importantly, wherefore are truthful galore Twitter employees flying the coop? Elon Musk does not look similar a amusive feline to enactment for, contempt the morale boosting emails saying things like: “In an progressively competitory world, we request to beryllium highly hard core. This volition mean moving agelong hours astatine higher intensity.”

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has resulted successful  chaos, wide    layoffs and foundational changes to the platform.

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has resulted successful chaos, wide layoffs and foundational changes to the platform.Credit:Getty

Who knew? Only anyone with a occupation these days. But hey, it astir apt helps to person a spaceship erstwhile you request that uncommon clip out. Turns retired a batch of them did permission erstwhile fixed the heads up. A batch of the remainder were already sacked. So, wherever present to for Twitter?

There has been a batch of absorption connected Musk’s allegedly chaotic and authoritarian takeover of the platform, but the crushed radical are deleting their Twitter accounts is his illiberal and wholly untutored thought of what helium calls “free speech”.

Like a batch of privileged achromatic men, helium appears to person nary knowing that code is not free. Even successful the societal media age. It depends connected who owns the platform, who regulates and moderates the code and who has the loudest dependable successful the room.

When announcing his determination to reverse the imperishable Twitter prohibition connected Donald Trump, Musk said it was: “morally incorrect and flat-out stupid”. He described himself arsenic a “free code absolutist”. It is yet unclear if Trump volition instrumentality to Twitter.

The Twitter office  successful  San Francisco.

The Twitter office successful San Francisco.Credit:AP

The astir absorbing happening is Musk’s nonaccomplishment to specify what helium means by “free speech”. That’s a tin of worms Musk does not look equipped to open. Speech has ne'er been escaped oregon unregulated. The classical ineligible illustration is you can’t outcry occurrence successful a nationalist venue. Nor should you defame someone. You are not allowed to beryllium successful contempt of court.

On societal media, astir radical don’t cognize that due to the fact that they don’t person a instrumentality degree. That’s wherefore we request trained and adept contented moderators. The online and societal media epoch ushered successful a much antiauthoritarian accidental for radical to speak. But Musk should person a grip connected what helium is unleashing without competent moderators.

It has besides brought with it a container of trouble. Misogynists, antisemites, Islamophobes, racists, homophobes – immoderate of them bring the afloat set. Why is it important that their hatred code not person a level provided nether the guise of escaped speech?


Vic Alhadeff, who spearheaded a 2018 run which achieved a NSW instrumentality against incitement to unit connected the ground of race, religion, sex oregon intersexual identity, notes that everything begins with words. “The Holocaust didn’t statesman with the state chambers,” helium says. “It began by demonising, marginalising, isolating. So that unit was the adjacent logical measurement successful a gradation of othering. It is simply a fixed that escaped code is simply a cherished value; yet truthful are the antiauthoritarian principles which, if near unfiltered, it threatens to trample.”

We are astatine a precipice erstwhile it comes to democracy. That sounds similar an overwrought claim. But erstwhile we ticker what has happened successful the US it is simply a reminder that escaped code should ne'er beryllium taken for granted.

Humans person survived thousands of years of technological advancements, from inventing the instrumentality to the bid oregon Twitter. The existent question is however bash we usage them well? How bash we usage them to amended our humanity.

But you’ll person to excuse maine now, I’m engaged trying to travel my ain sanctimonious proposal by shutting down my Twitter account. Now, where’s my bloody password?

Catharine Lumby is simply a Professor of Media and Communications astatine the University of Sydney. She is the writer of a forthcoming biography connected the writer Frank Moorhouse.

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