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Musk begins to deliver on Twitter promise

New Twitter owner Elon Musk has collaborated with an independent reporter to reveal some internal details behind the decision to censor a major piece of political reporting.

Back in October of 2020, not long before the US general election, the New York Post wrote a story alleging corruption on the part of Joe Biden, the Democrat Presidential candidate. Soon after its publication both Facebook and Twitter acted to prevent its distribution on their platforms, with even direct messages containing links to it apparently blocked. The reason for doing so was some ill-defined concern about the accuracy of the reporting but this wholesale censorship of a major US newspaper, especially on the eve of a general election, was very controversial.

Musk had previously suggested that one of the things he intended to do when he acquired Twitter was to lift the lid on content moderation decisions and this weekend he shared details with independent reporter Matt Taibbi, on the apparent condition that Taibbi publish those findings on Twitter. We urge you to read them for yourself, but in essence they appear to confirm some degree of political bias behind the decision to sensor the NY Post story.

Much of today’s public discussion and information flow takes place over the major social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The ability to influence them, therefore, grants enormous power over everyone who uses them. As we’re seeing in the UK with the Online Safety Bill, politicians can now extra-legally outsource their censorship requirements to those platforms, potentially ensuring their electorate is prevented from accessing material that is politically unhelpful to them.

These Twitter revelations, with plenty more promised, could open a Pandora’s box with respect to how online censorship is viewed. The suggestion is that one political party has significantly greater influence over internet platforms in the US, which clearly undermines the democratic process and civil liberties in general. Strangely, not all US media seem pleased about these revelations, which calls into question their own commitment to objective truth.

 

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2 comments

  1. Avatar David Watson 05/12/2022 @ 4:05 pm

    I find it difficult to draw lines between freedom of speech, censorship, and the proliferation of disinformation, the latter in years past which could have led to charges of sedition. Unfortunately people believe what they read as they falsely believe social media to be held responsible for verifiable content. People may post whatever they wish regardless of its veracity. It’s sad in this day of supposed enlightenment that many will maliciously use a platform such as Twitter to misguide the masses. If moderation is censorship, so be it, but people should not be allowed to publish falsehoods, regardless of politics, religion or personal leanings. It borders on the same propaganda used extensively during the Cold War.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 05/12/2022 @ 4:18 pm

      Sure but who decides what is disinformation or a falsehood? Twitter was clearly wrong in the case referred to in this story…

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