The Guardian Weekly - UK (2022-05-06)

(EriveltonMoraes) #1
The Guardian Weekly 6 May 2022

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real harms that Twitter can cause as
a global platform, for instance being
used by malicious actors like Isis and
rightwing extremists.” She adds there
is a diff erence between the idea of free-
dom of speech as embodied by stand-
ing on a platform at Speakers’ Corner
and online, where you can “scream
into the void to billions of people”. She
says: “Platforms like Twitter are a com-
pletely diff erent animal and you’re
talking about somebody’s ability to
ruin someone’s life in an instant.”
The Gadde post elicited a wave of
expressions of support, and criticism
of Musk, from current and former
employees. A group of female Twit-
ter employees posted “ the women at
Twitter are the best of us” while the
platform’s former chief executive,
Dick Costolo, accused the billionaire of
“making an executive at the company
you just bought the target of harass-
ment and threats”.
There is also speculation that Musk
will allow banned fi gures back on to
the platform, including former presi-
dent Donald Trump, who has denied

The big story
Twitter

that he wants to return after his
account was permanently suspended
in January 2021. Nonetheless, the Wall
Street Journal reported last weekend
that Musk is “dismayed” that Trump
remains banned. The Center for Coun-
tering Digital Hate , a campaign group,
has said that reinstating people such
as Trump, extreme-right pundit Katie
Hopkins and InfoWars founder Alex
Jones would mean that Twitter’s
safety rules “don’t exist any more”.
The deal, which is backed by
the board but must be approved by
shareholders , has also raised con-
cerns about one person controlling
such a major platform. Twitter is sig-
nifi cant, its 217 million daily users are
the political and media equivalent of
infl uencers – journalists, commenta-
tors, celebrities and politicians.
“The fact that many politicians,
powerful individuals and pundits
are frequent users, and that some
journalists feature what they say in
their reporting, mean Twitter is clearly
an important part of how the political
and media agenda is set,” says Rasmus
Kleis Nielsen , director of the Reuters
Institute for the Study of Journalism
at Oxford University. “In that sense, a
rich business magnate owning it raises
the same kinds of issues as wealthy
individuals controlling infl uential
news media. ”

‘I think that


Elon Musk’s


conception of free


expression is foolish’


▲ Elon Musk, the
owner-in-waiting
of Twitter
STEVE NESIUS/REUTERS

▼ Twitter HQ in
San Francisco,
California
AFP/GETTY

The deal is not expected to face
scrutiny from competition authorities
in the US but politicians are starting to
address the question of internet regu-
lation, and the issues over free speech
that come with it. Landmark laws are
being introduced in the UK and the EU
and they will have a direct impact on
the shape of Musk’s town square.
In another tweet last week, Musk
acknowledged that individual states’
conception of freedom of speech
would trump his own. He wrote: “By
‘free speech’, I simply mean that which
matches the law. I am against censor-
ship that goes far beyond the law.” But
the law – in the UK and the EU – is about
to change.

I


N THE UK, THE GOVERN-


MENT IS INTRODUCING


THE ONLINE SAFETY


BILL , which imposes a
duty of care on tech com-
panies to protect users
from harmful content.
Some of the content it
cover s is already banned by the likes of
Twitter, specifi cally posts containing
things that are criminal in the offl ine
world, such as terrorist or child sexual
abuse content. But it will also require
major platforms to deal with “legal
but harmful” content – posts that fall
below the threshold of criminality but
can still cause psychological or physi-
cal harm. This has alarmed free speech
advocates (York calls it “dystopian”)
but Musk will have to abide by it.
“Services that operate in the UK
are subject to UK regulations. Online
platforms are no diff erent to services
in other sectors. Once enacted, Twitter
will need to satisfy Ofcom that they
are complying with the duties to pro-
tect users ,” says Maeve Walsh , a policy
consultant who helped shape the bill.
The EU is also implementing the
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