Thursday, April 14, 2022

104 - Messiah Complex, Anyone?

The world moves quickly, and the state of things as I write this might be very different from the state of things when you read this.

As I write, Elon Musk has submitted a mutli-billion dollar bid to buy Twitter and take it private. The outcome has not been settled yet.

I want to try to sort through some very nuanced issues here, in a serious manner, which is sometimes hard for me. I am usually more likely to make jokes of things (including jokes about Musk - mashed up with a few other billionaire tech CEO's - in my upocoming book, "How To Confuse A.I.").

Elon Musk purports to be crusading on behalf of "Free speech," a concept that I very much support. Having (among other things) a little bit of a journalism background, it hits me deeply when, for example, China cracks down of freedom of the press in Hong Kong. the freedom to speak freely is something I take very seriously.

The problem with Twitter (and by extension Facebook, although I have not been on Facebook since 2014) is that "freedom of speech," becomes a wild west of propoganda (sometimes very sophisticated propoganda, expertly done by devious parties), with insufficient checks and balances, on a platform too easily used to spread dis-proven conspiracies, and outright falsehoods.

So, I ask Mr. Musk, do you support 'Bad Actors' freedom to speak expertly designed falsehoods, manipulated specifically to damage our public discourse?

I'll give you my answer. In the public square; meaning literally outside on a street corner, where The Constitution guarantees free expression, yes, I support anyone's freedom to spout nonsense of any kind unhindered. Literally outside on the street corner. That is where constitutionally-protected free speech has no limits.

On a social network, though - a corporation such as Twitter - I support, want, demand, that the company police and check that 'speech' on their platform is not being used to manipulate, to decieve, or to tear apart. A private newspaper demands the freedom to print and publish whatever it deems print-worthy, according to its own standards. Yet, that same newspaper has the freedom to say no to someone from outside the paper demanding that they print their outside/confrontational/false article or editorial. It is not a clamp-down on "freedom of speech," for this private newspaper to reject a submitted piece of writing. The writer of the alternate piece of writing has absolute and total freedom to go outside on the street corner and shout any and all desenting views he wants. That, and that only is "Freedom of speech." Any private company has the freedom, even the responsibility, to police and safeguard their platform from incendiary flasehoods.

Twitter was getting better at these safeguards, especially when they recently banned a few conspiracy-spreading loonies. My worry about Elon Musk running Twitter is that he will be inclined to let the loonies, the liars, the conspiracy theorists, and the propogandists new license to attack. Elon Musk says his attempt to take over Twitter is about "the future of civilization."

Messiah complex, anyone?

Peter Wick
April 14, 2022