Alas, Elon Musk may be right about Trump’s Twitter ban

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Since Elon Musk announced his intention to buy Twitter and impose his version of free speech on him, there were rumors about whether he would allow Donald Trump, the latest Twitter fiend, to return to the platform. Well, the intrigue is over. On Tuesday, Musk confirmed what most people suspected by announcing Financial Times conference that he would “lift the permanent ban” on the former president’s account. Trump, remember, loaded from Twitter on January 6, 2021, after his tweets during the Capitol riots were deemed to violate Twitter’s rules against glorifying violence.

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As usual, the exact logic of Musk’s reasoning is hard to follow. He previously proposed that, being under its ownership, Twitter will allow any content that does not violate the law. But on Tuesday, he said Twitter should still block tweets or temporarily suspend accounts “if they say something illegal or just disruptive to the world.” If that was too accurate, he added: “If there are wrong and bad tweets, they should either be deleted or made invisible, and a suspension – a temporary suspension – is appropriate, but not permanent.”

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If anything, deleting tweets that are “wrong and bad” suggests a broader standard of content moderation that is easier to abuse than Twitter currently uses. (Wrong and bad, according to who?) The most likely explanation for Musk’s controversial claims is that he’s just making it up as he goes and hasn’t given much thought to how content rules should work on the social platform he’s trying to spend $44 on. . billion to buy. And yet, in Musk’s free-speech word salad, there is a toast of wisdom worth munching on. Perhaps Twitter really needs to rethink its use of permanent bans — not just for Trump, but for everyone.

Trump’s ban on Twitter has always been difficult to analyze. A set of equally valid competing values ​​points in conflicting directions. On the one hand, Twitter is a private company that can do whatever it wants. On the other hand, she plays an important role in American politics and public debate, so her choice has broad implications for how democracy functions in the US. On the one hand, the public is particularly interested in what politicians say; if the president has abnormal or odious beliefs, this is important information to know. On the other hand, there is something indecent about exempting the most powerful members of society from the rules that ordinary people must abide by. Moreover, violations of the rules by someone in the post of Trump more more dangerous than some random Twitter user.

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Getting rid of permanent bans offers one way to iron out these seemingly inconsistent positions: in general, don’t hand out permanent bans to regular users. or politicians. A permanent ban on Twitter is a harsh sentence. The platform has a unique place in American politics, which is why Trump and other politicians are so obsessed with it. It is on this that the hyper-educated “elite” who disproportionately make up the political class, especially the media, spend too much of their time and attention.

it’s unfortunatebut it’s reality. If you want important people in the media and politics to take notice of your ideas, the best and most direct way to do so is to go to their Twitter feed. Disconnecting someone from Twitter or other major social platforms can severely limit their ability to participate in public debate. As the Supreme Court ruled in 2016, “to completely remove access to social media means to prevent the user from participating in the legitimate exercise of rights enshrined in the First Amendment.” This meant an act of government, not a decision of private enforcement. This distinction is important for legal purposes, but from the user’s point of view, the consequences are the same regardless of who enforces the ban. (Facebook first shut down Trump’s account “indefinitely” after the riot, but later agreed on the recommendation of the Facebook Supervisory Board to reconsider his case after a two-year suspension. YouTube hasn’t said anything about whether it will allow Trump to return to its platform, and if so, when.)

“I think permanent bans can be very harmful,” says Evelyn Dweck, a doctoral student at Harvard Law School who studies content moderation. “And in some ways they will be more harmful to the average user than to a really powerful politician who can always get his message across.”

Indeed, recently Trump argued that he would not return to Twitter even if he was reinstated, and would instead use his own Twitter clone platform, Truth Social. Oh sure. Yes, Trump has other ways to get his message across, but can he really resist the power of Twitter to amplify it? Journalists are glued to Twitter, which means that any Trump tweet has a high chance of making it to the front page or the nightly news. Nu Wexler, former Twitter Politics Officer, put it down: “Despite all the debate about deplatforming and hardening algorithms, the vast majority of Americans who knew about Trump’s social media posts saw them on television or in the print media. Social platforms have always been his main medium.” (Of course, he said it on Twitter, thus ensuring that I, a degenerate journalist addicted to Twitter, would stumble upon it.)

Twitter should rethink its use of permanent bans whether Trump returns or not. Of course, there are some egregious categories for which a zero tolerance policy makes sense, such as people who use the platform to spread child sexual abuse material. Some people may deserve to run out of second chances. But in general, perma-ban should be used sparingly. (Jack Dorsey obviously agrees with Musk about it, though he didn’t explain why he didn’t act on his beliefs when he was the company’s CEO.)

Applying an escalation of suspension is more reasonable than issuing a life sentence. If you’re bad, you deserve a timeout. If you’re really bad, you deserve a very long one. But people can change and learn from their mistakes; they can recover from a personal crisis that contributed to their online misbehavior. And platforms can make enforcement mistakes that would be less embarrassing if they didn’t go on indefinitely. (Oddly enough, I know several people who have been banned for obvious jokes.) Would Trump and conservatives take it easy if Twitter banned his account for six months or a year, say, instead of indefinitely? Of course not. Liberals also wouldn’t let Twitter hear the end of it from the other side. But ultimately, Trump is who he is. This is not a Twitter issue that needs to be addressed.

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Credit: www.wired.com /

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