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

(EriveltonMoraes) #1
6 May 2022 The Guardian Weekly


First amendment

zealotry v reality

The experts’

take on what lies

ahead for Twitter

the start. Governments around
the world are set on regulating
big tech. It’s a big enough issue
for the billionaire owners of other
platforms; imagine the pressures
Musk will face when governments
dangle benefi ts for Tesla or SpaceX
in exchange for tougher content
moderation against their critics.
Whether Musk accounted for
the regulatory changes ahead is
unknown. Either way, Twitter
is a global platform in which his
cliche fi rst amendment zealotry
will confront some hard realities.
One is that governments expect
the companies to police their
platforms to deal with everything
from the illegal (think terrorist
content, child exploitation) to the
“awful but lawful” (hate speech,
electoral disinformation, foreign
manipulation). Another is that,
for Twitter to be broadly usable –
indeed, for it to pursue its stated
purpose of serving the public
conversation – it needs rules to limit
the racism, misogyny, anti semitism,
Islamophobia and other ugly
content that is not just awful for
users but specifi cally designed to
drive marginali sed communities off
the platform.
The choice for Musk is stark:
double-down on his facile

Digital Services Act (DSA), which
requires the major social media plat-
forms to do more to tackle illegal
content. This includes forcing them
to allow users to fl ag such content in
an “easy and eff ective way” so that it
can be swiftly removed. “Twitter, even
owned by Mr Musk, needs to moderate
content to comply with EU rules ,” says
Christel Schaldemose , a Danish MEP
and the chief negotiator on the DSA.
In the US, content moderation has
been a hotly debated topic for years
among legislators. While there is
some bipartisan support for reforms,
the subject of how and whether plat-
forms should be held liable for con-
tent published on their sites remains
Section 230 of the Communications
Decency Act of 1996 absolves plat-
forms of responsibility for content
posted by others. Both Trump and
President Joe Biden have stated their
support for a reform of section 230,
albeit for diff erent reasons. Republi-
cans have claimed, largely without
evidence, that rightwing voices are
being censored while Democrats say
platforms are hosting harmful content,
disinformation and misinformation
without consequences.
But campaigners say reforming or
repealing section 230 could do more
harm than good : it could prompt com-
panies to delete wide swathes of posts,
even if they are not harmful, for fear
of running foul of the law – perhaps in
the process denying oppressed groups
one of their most powerful platforms.
“Section 230 is a foundational law for
human rights and free expression glob-
ally,” says Evan Greer, the director of
digital rights group Fight for the Future.
“Regardless of what Musk wants to do,
changing section 230 would make it
even harder for platforms like Twitter
to moderate harmful content through
a human rights framework, and more
likely that platforms would remove
wide swathes of legitimate content in
order to avoid litigation.”
Also contained within the deal to
buy Twitter is a $1bn break fee, which
could be payable by either side depend-
ing on the circumstances of how the
deal falls apart. As it becomes increas-
ingly clear that implementing his vision
faces signifi cant hurdles, Musk may
consider it a fee worth paying. Observer

Additional reporting by
Johana Bhuiyan

Musk faces a stark choice
David Kaye

Here’s a juxtaposition many
American observers may have
missed in the hubbub over Elon
Musk’s purchase of Twitter: just
last month the EU provisionally
agreed to the most far-reaching
internet regulation in a generation.
The Digital Services Act will force
the largest online platforms to be
transparent about their activities
and assess and mitigate the harms
their products may cause. It’s just



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