Free Speech in the age of Twitter
Structure enables freedom
Elon Musk has launched a hostile takeover of Twitter claiming that Twitter wrongfully restricts free speech. He claims to be a free speech absolutist.
How quaint and out of touch is that?
Don't be fooled. There is nothing quaint about Musk.
He has been caught and fined for tweeting misinformation about taking Tesla private that sent the stock market into a tizzy to his profit.
He doesn't seem to be like Trump who just lies to pump up his own ego and self image. Musk seems way more calculating than that.
I looked into free speech absolutism and there are ideas there that I hold close to my heart.
Public discourse is best when all points of view are expressed and criticized. Then a well-informed and reasonable citizenry will make the best democratic choices.
Or as Voltaire pointed out: "good ideas inevitably drive out the bad ones in the court of educated opinion."
William O. Douglas (SCOTUS justice now deceased) had the view that "the Constitution forbids courts and legislatures from abridging any form of expression, including sexually explicit materials.
Douglas feared that a ban in any speech would shift the Bill of Rights away from protecting individual liberty and toward governmentally enforced social conformity."
Full disclosure: Long ago in my late teens in Saint John I was appointed to the "Obscenity Commission" by the mayor of the city because I was a prolific letter to the editor writer discussing exactly those issues - sexually explicit material and conformity.
This was an age where "Lady Chatterly's Lover" was considered sexually explicit.
I'm especially sensitive to the idea of enforced social conformity.
I've had long hair and a beard since I was 19 and back then I was a non-conformist and lots of people disapproved (including my Dad)
But there was an assumption that the citizenry would be reasonable and well informed.
Nobody then considered the possibility of a Donald Trump who could rise to prominence by lying all the time in a way that was entertaining to a huge proportion of Americans.
And Twitter became his main way of communicating with his audience.
This audience correlated with a segment of America that Hillary Clinton called 'deplorable'
The Deplorables are racist and uninformed and misinformed.
This violates Voltaire's idea that "good ideas inevitably drive out the bad ones in the court of educated opinion." because the Deplorables sure do influence public opinion but that's no longer a court of educated opinion.
What's happening now is that the purveyors of misinformation are claiming that they have a right to say whatever they want as a matter of free speech.
Willmoore Kendall viewed the absolute free speech as a counter-productive idea. Kendall argued that if a community treats every idea as refutable, 'such a society will become intolerant, one in which the pursuit of truth can only come to a halt'
So we see anti-vaxxers claiming that their 'truth' has the same weight as the vast majority of the medical profession.
And we get "Freedom Convoys" that block other people's freedom unless the anti-vaxxers get their way.
Once long ago when Thothica was popular we would attract griefers who took pleasure in disrupting the discussion in various ways like hurtful speech.
They defended themselves on First Amendment grounds and that they had the right to say whatever they wanted.
And I observed that they were actually restricting any discussion to their narrow range of interest. I got good at booting them.
So now we have Musk wanting to control Twitter so that there will be no restrictions on misinformation and disinformation.
He takes a 'you decide' stance to it all - as if everyone was being reasonable.
He ignores social dynamics altogether - well - not ignores - he wants to manipulate social dynamics by controlling information.
The technique - as with the griefers is to crowd out reasonable ideas with junk and insults
Is this a good idea?
What do you think?
I open the floor