What problem needs solving. Twitter has become a monster for a few reasons:
- It is used as a source for “news.” It used to be that reporters had to go find news, develop sources, and then be responsible to have checked the validity of something before printing it. Today, the news comes to them and they run with it because the statement in itself is news. President Trump and his adversaries show every day why this is both powerful and dangerous.
- the Supreme Court’s 1919 decision in the case Schenck v. United States stated that the First Amendment, though it protects freedom of expression, does not protect dangerous speech. This is the famous “you can’t yell fire in a theater” decision. Twitter has taken this to a whole new level where anonymous people spend their days tweeting “there’s a fire in the country!” This is a Homeland Security issue.
- We know that some tweets are generated by foreign actors either as bots or as themselves. Foreign governments have the ability to distribute propaganda directly to American citizens. This is clearly a Homeland Security issues.
- Twitter management is trying to impose their own standard of what constitutes free speech and what constitutes dangerous speech. What we’ve seen is that certain kinds of legal speech is being denied primarily because Twitter doesn’t like it.
What needs to be done.
- The usage of foreign bots must be stopped. This seems to me to be a solvable technology problem. There is already technology that requires you to click a box labeled “I am not a robot” or some such. Adding this alone would stop the bots and would require a moment’s more thinking before someone tweets. I’d also be in favor of a special button labeled “I am the President of the United States and people hang on every word I say.”
- Legal speech must be permitted in all its forms. If it is not, the site must be shutdown as unconstitutional.
- Twitter is no more responsible for policing speech on its platform than a venue is for what a politician says at a political event. On the other hand, individuals are responsible for what they say and are subject to libel laws.
I think there also needs to be clarity on what constitutes a illegal “terms and conditions.” Twitter, for example, has its Hateful conduct policy which says:
Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.
On a quick reading this seems all well and good. However, the devil is in what it means to “promote violence or directly attack or threaten.”
This seems to me to be unconstitutional and its interpretation is one of the things that’s causing so much trouble right now. For example, if I say “people in this country illegally need to be removed to their country of origin,” Twitter could and seems to be interpreting this as as “Hateful Conduct” since, in their view, I’m promoting violence against or directly attacking or threatening other people. We, on the other hand, would say “we think laws need to be enforced.”
It occurs to me that if Twitter existed during the Revolutionary War, all of the founders would be banned!
My view is that they created this cesspool and they have to live with the fact that curtailing legal speech is unconstitutional. Perhaps there needs to be a lawsuit to challenge the notion of “Hateful Conduct.”
At the root of much of this is the notion of protected classes where I can tell NWC I’d like to punch him in the mouth and that’s OK but if I say I’d like to punch Colin Kaepernick in the mouth, that’s illegal hate speech. And, no, I don’t want to punch Colin Kaepernick in the mouth. Anyone who’s making money not doing something has my admiration!