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The great twit-tators

Even Elon Musk’s millions may not be enough to save free speech

7 May 2022

9:00 AM

7 May 2022

9:00 AM

After Elon Musk negotiated a deal last week to buy Twitter for $US44 billion, one thing is clear; free speech is not cheap. Musk’s aim is simple; end censorship on the social media platform and restore it as a place for the free exchange of ideas.

Musk is hardly a right-winger. He has made his millions inventing luxury electric cars, driven by social justice warriors with a penchant for haute couture hairshirts in silk and cashmere such as Alexandria Ocasio Cortes. She wore a designer gown to the Met Ball last year emblazoned with the words ‘Tax the Rich’ and of course drives a Tesla. It gives conservatives a scintilla of schadenfreude that champagne socialists funded Musk’s takeover of Twitter, but it enrages progressives.

With a remarkable lack of irony, the Washington Post, owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos, editorialised that Musk’s appointment to Twitter’s board showed that ‘we need regulation of social-media platforms to prevent rich people from controlling our channels of communication’.

It’s not the only media outlet exhibiting an irony deficit. Ari Melber, chief legal correspondent for MSNBC said, with a look of stupefaction last week, ‘If you own all of Facebook or Twitter… (you) could secretly ban one party’s candidate, or all of its candidates… or you could just turn down the reach of their stuff… and the rest of us might not even find out about it until after the election.’

Progressives have no problem with Twitter banning President Trump, while tolerating the Taliban, or Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spending $US419 million during the 2020 US presidential election to fund a private takeover of government election operations that, as Dr William Doyle revealed in the New York Post last October, funded the placement of left-wing activists in local election offices where they demanded universal mail-in voting, created opportunities for illegal ballot harvesting and funded a range of programs to get out the Democrat vote, ‘cure’ absentee ballots and hire partisan staff to count votes in key swing states, generating the few thousand votes that were critical to Biden to secure an electoral college victory. But CNN media analyst David Zurawik was outraged that Zuckerberg took roubles from Russia for ads on Facebook during the 2016 presidential election. He said Musk buying Twitter was ‘dangerous’ and America needed to look to Europe. ‘You need regulation,’ he said last week. ‘You cannot let these guys control discourse in this country, or we are headed to hell… Trump opened the gates of hell and now they’re chasing us down.’

The European regulation to which Zurawik referred is the EU’s new Digital Service Act which requires Big Tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter to police their platforms for hate speech and disinformation, with hefty fines of up to six per cent of a company’s global revenue for non-compliance and a permanent ban on repeat offenders.

MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan, part of the Israel-bashing Left, said the problem was Musk was a ‘simpleton’ who equated the far-left and the far-right as ‘two equally dangerous fringe blocs’. ‘But here’s the difference,’ Hasan told viewers; ‘America’s far Left wants to give us free health care and free childcare. America’s far-right wants to give us white supremacy and no democracy.’

Hyperbolically, Hasan says America is ‘living through an unspeakably dangerous moment’ with ‘the pro-QAnon, pro-neo-Nazi faction of the Republican Party’ poised to expand dramatically in the mid-terms and Trump ‘very possibly re-seizing executive power’ in the next election. He sees Musk’s purchase of Twitter as a possibly ‘pivotal moment’ when ‘a petulant & not-so-bright billionaire casually bought one of the world’s most influential messaging machines & just handed it to the far-right.’

Former president Obama, who many assume is the eminence grise running America while Biden stumbles reading his lines on a teleprompter, said in a speech on 21 April at Stanford Cyber Policy Centre that while ‘content moderation can limit the distribution of clearly dangerous content, it doesn’t go far enough.’

Four days later, on Monday 25 April, Musk’s offer to buy Twitter was accepted and by Thursday the Biden administration had announced the establishment of a Disinformation Governance Board or DGB, which conservatives quipped was the Democrat equivalent of the KGB. The head of the thought police is Nina Jankowicz, a perfect partisan who says ‘birth person’ rather than mother, laments that Twitter is dominated by  ‘cis-normative white males’, claims Hunter Biden’s laptop is ‘Russian disinformation’, and, like an Orwellian Mary Poppins sings about ‘information laundering’ to the tune of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

US Senator Josh Hawley has pointed out that the first amendment of the US constitution states that Congress shall pass no law abridging freedom of speech and has promised that if ‘Biden won’t dissolve his unconstitutional Disinformation Board, Congress should,’ declaring ‘it’s time to stand up for free speech’.

Sadly, on the other side of the Atlantic, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already raised the white flag and called on Musk to comply with the UK’s laws which already ban the nebulous and ever-expanding concept of ‘hate speech’. Twitter will also have to comply with a new Online Safety Bill which the government hopes will be passed before the end of the year and will force social media platforms to censor speech that is legal if it is deemed to be harmful by the government or the media regulator Ofcom. Already, Labour’s shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell claims that the bill doesn’t go far enough and will allow ‘climate deniers’ to slip through the net.

In this increasingly intolerant atmosphere, the prospects for free speech in Australia look dire. It’s hardly surprising that the federal government has allowed social media to censor scientific debate about Covid when government-funded bodies have sacked dissident doctors who dare to criticise government policy on lockdowns, masks and mandates. Meanwhile, bureaucrats in Liberal states have even banned the word ‘mate’ for not being inclusive. If Labor wins the federal election, it will no doubt add climate change to the list of topics that cannot be debated. Indeed, despite the promises of the leader of the opposition, if Labor has to rely on Green or Teal MPs to form government, the latter will insist on greater censorship, as the Greens did during the Gillard government. In that grim eventuality, only conservative Liberals and minor parties will stand between the populace and the great twit-tators.

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