Jackson Griffith just lately addressed Elon Musk’s evolving function in Twitter, following Musk’s acquisition of 9.2% of its shares. He rightly said, “Musk has been critical of Twitter’s moderation policies, even going so far as to say Twitter’s policies undermine democracy.” In distinction, Griffith believed, “Twitter’s current policies do an effective job in keeping the platform free of misinformation and harmful practices while also providing an avenue to free speech for all.” Several factors ought to be thought of.
First, a serious motive for Musk’s curiosity in Twitter is exactly as a result of he doesn’t really feel it’s functioning as a platform for free speech. In his letter to Twitter’s chairman of the board, he wrote, “I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy. However, since making my investment I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form.”
In a 2020 interview with MIT Technology Review, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal prompt as a lot. Agrawal said “our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment … Where our role is particularly emphasized is who can be heard.”
Second, some of what’s labeled as misinformation now could change into acceptable, if not the usual, sooner or later. The best purveyor of misinformation in his time was Galileo Galilei, who was opposed by the Catholic Church as a result of he supported the Copernican heliocentric idea of the photo voltaic system.
As just lately as final month, Twitter suspended University of Oxford Prof. Carl Heneghan’s Twitter account, who research and teaches evidence-based drugs. Heneghan’s transgression was sharing an article that questioned the accuracy of COVID-19 deaths within the United Kingdom and cited a research of which Heneghan was a component. Heneghan stated he acquired an e mail from Twitter accusing him of “violating the policy of spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.” The ban was lifted the subsequent day, and Twitter admitted a mistake, however censorship issues are evident.
Third, Griffith wrote “Many far-right Twitter users are already lobbying Musk to reinstate Trump’s Twitter account,” in reference to former President Donald Trump, who was completely suspended from the social media platform on Jan. 8, 2021. However, it was not merely these on the “far-right” who have been involved about Twitter’s ban on Trump.
The American Civil Liberties Union, a nonprofit group based in 1920, has been on the forefront of many liberal causes in its greater than a century of advocacy. Following Trump’s everlasting Twitter suspension, former ACLU Attorney David Goldberger advised Newsweek, “Of course it’s censorship, but it’s not government censorship and that’s the dilemma.” Recently, Goldberger wrote, “Liberals are leaving the First Amendment behind.”
Twitter is just not a authorities establishment and due to this fact is just not sure by freedom of speech protections assured by the First Amendment. Twitter’s Corporate Governance Guidelines state “it is the principal duty of the Board to exercise its powers in accordance with its fiduciary duties to the Company and in a manner it reasonably believes to be in the best interests of the Company and its stockholders.” In different phrases, a publicly-traded firm with a market capitalization of greater than $30 billion, Twitter can ban any speech that doesn’t align with its company targets.
Northwestern, as a personal college, can be not sure by the First Amendment. In 1992, California handed the Leonard Law that applies First Amendment protections to college students at personal instructional establishments. An analogous regulation doesn’t exist in Illinois. Thus, NU college students have far fewer authorized protections on freedom of speech than college students at different Big Ten Conference universities, that are publicly funded.
In 2015, The University of Chicago, a personal college, launched the Chicago Principles (often known as the Chicago Statement) as a dedication to free speech. An excerpt states, “In a word, the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.”
The Chicago Principles have been formally endorsed by greater than 80 universities. The first was Princeton University, which adopted them in April 2015. NU has not endorsed them. Yet, retaliation towards NU college students by college and/or directors for social media posts, op-eds in The Daily and even difficult scientific data in school rooms can actually happen.
Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Clearly, Elon Musk doesn’t really feel Twitter upholds requirements for freedom of speech expressed by the First Amendment and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Members of the NU neighborhood ought to study their very own place on what has been acknowledged as a basic human proper.
— Norman C. Wang (McCormick ’94, Feinberg ’98)
If you want to reply publicly to this op-ed, ship a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed on this piece don’t essentially replicate the views of all workers members of The Daily Northwestern.