Earlier this week, Elon Musk likened Twitter to a modern-day public town square. But, rather than a place for the free exchange of ideas, Musk slammed the platform for failing to uphold free speech resulting in a subversion of democracy.
He followed up by asking his Twitter followers what should be done about this problem. In doing so, fueling speculation that he plans to launch his own competing social media platform.
Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy.
What should be done? https://t.co/aPS9ycji37
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 26, 2022
Currently, all major social media platforms are centralized and so may be serving agendas not privy to the public. Therefore, if Musk requires a free speech social media platform, a likely shout is to use blockchain technology.
The Tesla and SpaceX CEO didn’t confirm or deny he had such plans. But in response to a comment on creating his own open-source platform, he said, “Am giving serious thought to this.”
Then again, is free speech and freedom of expression necessarily a good thing? After all, the unfettered posts of people will likely turn up unsavory content.
Is Elon Musk planning to launch a social media platform?
As the conversation on this topic grew, some suggested, rather than build his own social media platform, Musk should buy Twitter.
One Twitter user touched on this idea, while in the same tweet, regardless of which route he goes, jokingly said Dogecoin should be utilized as a tipping mechanism.
“One of the best things about Elon Musk either buying Twitter or starting his own platform is you know there would be a Dogecoin tip jar!“
Musk replied using only a 100 emoji, presumably as an endorsement of Dogecoin for tipping. But, true to form, he left readers second-guessing the part about buying Twitter, starting his own platform, or doing neither.
In any case, a truly free speech social media platform means allowing anyone and everyone to post what they like. Anything less than that isn’t free speech.
The dark side of free speech
Political philosopher Brian Leiter, who wrote the book, “The Case Against Free Speech,” argues that free speech shouldn’t be considered an inherently good thing. This doesn’t mean he advocates the censorship and regulation of public and private communications.
Instead, Leiter objects to the belief that freedom is measured by the extent we are allowed to say what we want and do as we please. In summing up Leiter’s point on this matter, what we want to say and do are beyond our control. Therefore, to measure freedom by that criteria is a pseudo argument.
“We’re all conditioned by our environment, and what we want and think are really just products of social, economic, and psychological forces beyond our control.”
In more tangible terms, there are also the social and moral ramifications of unchecked free speech. Ripple CTO David Schwartz replied to Musk’s calls for free speech by saying this would encourage the dissemination of obscene content.
So you want a platform like Twitter but filled with people yelling the n-word, sharing detailed rape fantasies, and posting pictures of their toilets before they’re flushed?
— 𝙳𝚊𝚟𝚒𝚍 𝚂𝚌𝚑𝚠𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚣 (@JoelKatz) March 26, 2022
As much as free speech is held as virtuous, some type of censorship is necessary to maintain social cohesion. The deeper issue lies in who decides what is allowed and what isn’t.