Twitter Flailing on Freedom of Speech

If Twitter had got its act together on harassment five years ago they wouldn’t now be in a position where suspending the accounts of a handful of right-wing loudmouths seemed like a good idea.

Freedom of speech means you can speak truth to power without government or corporate interests acting as a gatekeeper over what speech is acceptable.

But freedom of speech also means you can voice controversial opinions without being shouted down. The “heckler’s veto” of the mob is as much a censor as any bureaucrat with a red pen.

Unless you refuse to accept the existence of the heckler’s veto, freedom of speech isn’t as simple as absolutists would make out; there is some speech which can only exist at the expense of other speech. If you operate any space on the web, from a community site to a large social network, sooner or later you’ve going to have to decide who’s speech has the most value, the heckler or the heckled.

This is not a defence of Twtter’s recent actions; the arbitrary nature and the complete lack of transparency ring all sorts of alarm bells, and paints a picture of a clueless management flailing around with desperate short-term fixes. It comes over as little more than simplistic virtue signalling, which very few people are impressed by. It’s got to the point where nobody trusts them any more.

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