November 28, 2022


“Elon Musk said on Thursday that Twitter will provide a ‘general amnesty’ to suspended accounts starting next week after running a poll on whether to do so for users who had not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam… [Last week, Musk] reinstated some previously suspended accounts, including former U.S. President Donald Trump.” Reuters

Here’s our previous coverage of Twitter. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left criticizes Musk and opposes relaxing moderation policies on Twitter.

“Twitter’s new owner said a highly unscientific online poll he conducted on Twitter had suggested that his platform’s users wanted Trump back. ‘The people have spoken,’ Musk tweeted. ‘Trump will be reinstated. Vox Populi, Vox Dei.’ A more honest tweet from Musk might have read: ‘My Twitter followers and tens of thousands of bots have spoken. Vox Elon, Vox Dei. It’s a useful diversion to say otherwise. The choice was mine.’…

“Like most technologists, he prefers to see Twitter as a digital connective tissue where everything should blossom freely and very little should be restricted. The responsibilities of being a thoughtful and sophisticated gatekeeper don’t interest him. Even when he waxes nostalgic and labels Twitter as a ‘de facto public town square,’ he’s deluding himself. Few town squares want thugs roaming around them, calling for violence.”

Timothy L. O'Brien, Bloomberg

“In a meeting with staffers on Saturday… he clarified what was really going on. ‘We are going to do a [content moderation] council,’ he said. ‘But it’s an advisory council.’ At the end of the day, he said, ‘it will be me deciding it.’ To extinguish any doubt about who is in charge, he clarified, ‘Obviously I could choose who is on that content council, and I don’t need to listen to what they say.’… Twitter is still a company, sure, with employees and creditors and advertisers, millions of users, producing a breathtaking range of externalities. But, also, it’s just a guy.”

John Herrman, New York Magazine

“Musk’s vision for Twitter, never entirely coherent, cracked at first contact with economic reality. His disdain for advertising meant that the companies purchasing ads would view him warily. Moreover, his lifting of bans on Twitter’s most truculent users inspired understandable fear from advertisers that their products would appear next to homophobic, racist, sexist or generally misanthropic tweets. Musk’s desire to replace lost ad revenue with subscriptions—while simultaneously reducing content moderation—made even less sense. He, effectively, asked people to pay for membership in a community where they were now more likely to be abused.”

Jelani Cobb, New Yorker

“For most of human history, communities were formed within strong geographic constraints, but the internet, more than any other human technology, untethered socialization from geography. In the somewhat utopian vision of its earliest builders and users, the internet would be a place where people across every line of difference and place could find one another to build community, to talk and debate and to pursue common interests…

“But another foundational aspect of the internet turned it into a commercial juggernaut: It was a never-ending, all-you-can-eat attentional buffet. Never before had people had access to so much to pay attention to. In the hands of clever engineers and ambitious entrepreneurs, the ability to capture our attention was maximized, commodified and monetized to give us what we have now…

“Whatever happens to Twitter, watching Mr. Musk’s reign over it should force us to rebuild the dream of the internet’s founders of a digital commons… [and] create a collective digital life that doesn’t depend on mining every nanosecond of our attention for profit.”

Chris Hayes, New York Times

From the Right

The right defends Musk and supports relaxing moderation policies on Twitter.

The right defends Musk and supports relaxing moderation policies on Twitter.

“Musk has committed two great sins in the eyes of the left. The first is that he is supposedly a fascist because he does not believe in deplatforming figures over speech… He has disrupted the left’s relative chokehold on what is considered allowable speech on social media. But fascism? Musk himself tweeted that Twitter’s new policy is ‘freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.’ Hate tweets won’t be found unless users seek them out, Musk said, ‘which is no different from the rest of the internet.’ This should hardly be controversial…

“Musk’s second transgression is that he is supposedly not competent enough to run Twitter. It’s hard to say whether this is true. Musk has axed a lot of longtime employees, but Twitter is bleeding money. He was derided for a new scheme to sell the coveted ‘blue checkmarks’ indicating verified accounts, but it got people talking about the app. By Musk’s own admission, Twitter will do ‘stupid’ things in the coming days and take chances. He is acting as a tech disruptor, an archetype once beloved by the left. It’s hardly believable that a man who is spearheading private space travel is ‘failure incarnate,’ as [one critic] called him.”

Bill Zeiser, Spectator World

“Musk’s detractors have implemented a series of strategies to force him to continue the politically-biased censorship practices that were employed under Twitter’s prior management. Accusing him of fomenting white supremacy on the site has been one of their primary – if not most predictable – tactics. Even after it was revealed that the uptick in racial slurs being used on the platform shortly after Musk took over was artificially inflated by a small number of mostly-bot accounts, critics insist that the new CEO is trying to pander to a racist, far-right element…

“It is not likely that Twitter’s new content moderation policy – which has not yet been fleshed out – will allow for any activity that would realistically drive a significant number of black users off the platform. Despite what leftists are claiming, Musk is not going to allow more of a proliferation of ‘hate speech’ on the site than already exists…

“Indeed, earlier this week he announced that the Twitter team had decreased these types of tweets to levels that were lower than before he took the helm. Currently, the site is losing advertisers who are concerned about this issue. He is not going to allow anything that will make companies less comfortable with advertising on the platform.”

Jeff Charles, RedState

“Individual users already have tools to shape their own experience on Twitter. The Block, Mute, and especially Leave Conversation functions existed before Musk bought Twitter. Users who troll and spew hate speech can be ignored outright at any time using these functions. Demands to shut down accounts over viewpoints are not attempts to offer a more intelligent debate but to shut down debate altogether. And previous Twitter management played along…

“Social-media platforms do not cause bleeding, or assaults, or any other kind of physical action. It’s simply speech. Humans who commit assaults or worse are responsible for their conduct, not a speech platform used by tens of millions for debate, discussion, and the latest sports scores… The activists overreached, and they lost. That’s what this hyperbolic weeping is really about, and it’s clearly not working with Musk.”

Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

A libertarian's take

“According to a Pew Research Center study, only 1 in 5 U.S. adults say they use Twitter, a number that hasn’t varied much since 2018. Compare that to the figures for YouTube (81 percent) and Facebook (69 percent)… The top 25 percent of users by volume write 97 percent of tweets. Far from being the voice of the people, Twitter is the voice of the self-anointed… Twitter is great, even in its current ragged and inconsistently moderated form, but if Musk chokes the life out of it, we’ll be fine

“Twitter drama has dominated coverage since last spring in part because journalists remain so devoted to it. Nieman Lab made this apparent several days ago in a piece listing the 11 (and counting) ways journalism would suffer if Musk snuffed Twitter… The saturation coverage of Twitter’s troubles has less to do with how its passing would turn the world upside down and more with the convenience it offers journalists. Somehow we hit deadlines in the pre-Twitter world. Surely we could do it again if the blue bird blew its brains out.”
Jack Shafer, Politico

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