Elon Musk’s Twitter plan means less free speech for many

March 2021, A Turkish court ordered news site Diken to remove a key story about Recep Tayip Erdogan, an ally of the country’s president.Turkish lawyer and digital rights activist Yaman Akdeniz posted a tweet His followers are urged to read this story before the decision goes into effect. The court then ruled that his tweets also needed to be deleted. But for more than a year, Twitter has defied orders to allow the tweet to continue.

If Elon Musk owned Twitter at the time, Akdeniz might have been out of luck.Despite SpaceX founder’s acquisition of the company troubled by problemsIt seems he still Prepare Take over the platform.Although he insists on making Twitter a free speech paradise, Musk’s vision for content moderation is compliance with local laws. “I tend to abide by the laws of the countries where Twitter operates,” he said. tweet May 9th. “If citizens want to ban something, then pass the law to do so, otherwise it should be allowed.”

In the U.S., where there is a highly permissive definition of First Amendment-protected free speech, Musk’s approach would force Twitter to allow all forms of content that, as lawyers say, are “terrible but legal,” including overt racism and human flesh search. But protections for free speech are weaker in many other countries, including Turkey, India and Russia. A standard of allowing only what is legally permitted will lead to less freedom of speech on Twitter, not more.

Twitter is rarely the most popular platform in many countries, but its function as a hub for activists, journalists and politicians means “it does more than it does in shaping public discourse,” says Prateek, director of internet policy Waghre said Delhi Freedom Foundation.

Currently, Twitter does Frequent compliance with government requirements Block or remove material, especially if it violates the company’s terms of service. But the platform also routinely rejects takedown requests, as in Akdeniz’s case. Twitter just complied with legal requirements between January and July 2021 54% time, but rates vary widely across countries. In Russia, where Twitter responded to only 8 percent of government takedown requests, the company refused to censor content related to the 2021 protests in support of opposition politician Alexei Navalny. This led to swift retaliation: Roskomnadzor, the government entity responsible for overseeing technology and communications, restricted platform. (The government claims this is because Twitter refuses to remove content related to child exploitation and suicide, but it has public threat Punish social media companies for allowing content that encourages people to protest. )

“If they think a request doesn’t conform to a country’s local law or their own interpretation of that local law, they may counter that they won’t abide by it,” said Allie Funk, Freedom House research director of technology and democracy.Companies can also view the following documents Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human RightsProtect the right to free speech, said Jason Pielemeier, policy director at the Global Network Initiative. “This is a document that many countries around the world, not just the United States, have ostensibly signed and agreed to,” he said. Twitter declined to comment in detail on its current handling of government requests.

All US-based social media companies are required to abide by the rules that countries operate within their borders. But laws in many countries allow governments to crack down on vaguely defined categories of speech, making it easy to suppress dissent and criticism.For example, India’s new IT rules Material that threatens “public order” or decency is prohibited.One Regulation It’s just as spacious in Indonesia. “Twitter is one of the few free speech spaces in Russia,” said Natalia Krapiva, technical legal counsel for Access Now. “In places like Russia, the laws are deliberately broad and vague, meaning the government can choose how and when they want to enforce it.”

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