Is Twitter a new pillar of free speech or a security threat and the end of democracy?
Note: Some links in this article may require a VPN to access them, depending on your location. Article updated December 2 to correct information about Twitter in India.
When Elon Musk bought Twitter, he said he would make it a free speech platform. Many doubt his goals, but he has started a push against Apple on money and censorship. Is he doing what he promised, or is it just Musk propaganda?
Follow the path Musk paves
On November 23, 2022, he started the discussion with a poll on reinstating suspended accounts:
The poll passed with a hefty majority vote by non-banned Twitter users, ending with the Latin “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”
But notice that the people who have been the most vocal about banning conservative posts because they are “mean-spirited, offensive, and propaganda” are the minority of voters. The vocal minority often makes the most noise and garners the attention of mainstream media.
Elon Musk was clear about unbanning those that have not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam.”
That statement removes the warnings, complaints, and reasons shouted by the vocal minority, the mass media, and the Democrats.
On November 26, CNN complained Twitter would activate accounts related to “threats and harassment.” They interviewed former CIA intelligence and security analyst Robert Baer who said, “Putin will be all over Twitter […] Fake accounts, spoofed accounts […] talking about the popular voice, he is talking about Russian intelligence.” Baer says Russia will support the far right and spread misinformation that appeals to the “European far right, the Chinese….”
Hate to be the one to let Mr. Baer know this, but Twitter has been banned in China since 2009, along with Iran, North Korea, and Turkmenistan. Twitter is also partially restricted in Russia, and Twitter has banned many accounts in India. An expert in intelligence should know this.
Elon said he would not reinstate accounts that have “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam,” so this argument is still invalid.
On November 27, 2022, Mr. Musk tweeted:
Note he is calling for “civil debate,” which requires establishing common ground, not disqualifying your opponent’s viewpoint, and conceding points to your opponent when they are due.
“How to debate politics like a gentleman” has good general points for both men and women to hold productive conversations on opposing topics. UC Berkeley also has a good discussion on what free speech is, what hate speech is, and how the First Amendment applies.
On November 28, Elon set the stage for the number of psychological operations (psyops) that happened on Twitter:
Then, he ties that to Apple no longer advertising on the platform and that they have been censoring information.
Lastly, he calls on Apple to publish their censorship actions, accuses them of threatening to remove Twitter from their platform, and again ties it all to the fees Apple charges developers for anything distributed on the App Store.
The end game
I think Elon Musk is waging his own information war to effect significant change.
In December 2021, Musk said wokeness and political correctness were the biggest threats to modern civilization.
By pressuring Apple on what they take from developers’ money, he is setting the stage for potential antitrust measures by the new Republican House. He already has backing from Republican politicians who have been the subject of censorship on platforms.
Apple will also get pressure from their iPhone users to stand by their stated transparency and anti-tracking policies and release their censorship data. Currently, their policies are vague. Musk is applying pressure where it can hurt Apple – sales. Realistically, Musk cannot compete with a “MuskPhone,” but Apple does not need the loss of its user base either.
It is also likely that advertisers will be more hesitant to flee, wanting to distance themselves from civil rights groups, the White House acting like Big Brother, and threats by the Democrats. As Musk shows he is serious about a safe and accessible place to have civil conversations, advertisers will want to distance themselves from such political discord.
Elon will make this the first battle and pressure other platforms to follow suit in being more transparent or to change their ways.
Go, Elon. Go.