Well, he did it. he closed the deal and freed the bird.
What surprises me (although why be surprised in these current times) are the innumerable calls to curb, censor, burden, restrain, and cancel the new Twitter.
I thought one of the motivations to buy Twitter was to remove its current practices of cancellations, deplatformings, and censorship… thereby increasing freedom of speech… well, what do I know.
how to fix twitter
DHH wrote an interesting post on simple guidelines to fix the company.
- premise: the internet contains the full range of characters, from the lovely to the nasty
- premise: the internet is governed by local laws on speech, not by content moderators → this is a feature, not a bug
- solution: make Twitter a communication protocol that can be used to transmit any type of content, and let the individuals moderate what they want to read as they see fit
- just like you could find terrible things on the internet if you googled them, but you just don’t do it because you’re moderating what you want to be exposed to
- this doesn’t work today in Twitter because it thrusts content at you that you never asked to see
- solution: Twitter only shows you content from people you’ve asked to follow
- solution: authors moderate their own posts (just like with blogs and blog comments)
- solution: promoted tweets that Twitter wants to showcase pass through a positive rather than negative editorial process (i.e., Twitter picks what they like to feature, not what they want to ban).
Good luck. Only showing content from people one has asked to follow probably decimates the current revenue model. Its most addictive properties dissipate.
beyond elon and twitter: freedom of speech and distribution of power
It wasn’t Elon or Twitter what moved me to write about this topic, but the underlying dynamics that I see.
freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is the master value. The indispensable and necessary condition for any other form of freedom and real progress. Without it, many fundamental rights fade away. To restrict it, or even to threat restricting it, is a grave error.
This is why the formerly laudable ACLU sued the government in 1977 to allow a group of nazis (yes, nazis) to march in Skokie, Illinois.
As David Goldberger recounts:
"The village’s determination to block the Nazi demonstration was so intense that it had the effect of turning the Skokie case into a landmark example of the vitality of the First Amendment, as well as the ACLU’s fierce commitment to the principle that freedom of speech is a universal right no matter how offensive the message or the speaker."
distribution of power
The second point, related to the first one, is about being mindful of the distribution of power between the individual and the government. We just need to look at life in places like China or Saudi Arabia, or in the 20th century Soviet Union to see what excessive government power does to individual rights and liberties.
In these days in which no one tolerates feeling offended, in which the default response is to silence and cancel and deplatform, let’s take a step back and shift our perspective.
If we feel offended and want to silence the person who is “harming” us and are willing (and sometimes eager) to use the power of the government to achieve our objective (e.g., regulate the use of certain words?), what we’re ultimately doing is weakening the individual and, as José Ignacio Beteta says, building a more powerful government for whoever is in charge now and whoever may come in the future.
To close this post, I leave an excerpt from the essay The Future of Mankind, by the great Bertrand Russell. The essay describes the possibility of a third world war and an eventual victory of either the United States or the Soviet Union.
He explains why he’d rather see victory favor the States (emphasis mine).
“My reason for siding with America is that there is in that country more respect than in Russia for the things that I value in a civilized way of life. The things I have in mind are such as: freedom of thought, freedom of inquiry, freedom of discussion, and humane feeling. What a victory of Russia would mean is easily to be seen in Poland. There were flourishing universities in Poland, containing men of great intellectual eminence. Some of these men, fortunately, escaped; the rest disappeared. Education is now reduced to learning the formulae of Stalinist orthodoxy; it is only open (beyond the elementary stage) to young people whose parents are politically irreproachable, and it does not aim at producing any mental faculty except that of glib repetition of correct shibboleths and quick apprehension of the side that is winning official favor. From such an educational system nothing of intellectual value can result.” (The Future of Mankind, 1951)
Here’s a link to the full essay.
Until next time.