Elon Musk explains that permanent bans applied to real Twitter accounts fundamentally undermine trust in the platform. People behind such accounts will still find a way to express their opinions publicly, gathering around like-minded people, which, in turn, will only exacerbate societal division.
After Elon Musk announced his intention to buy Twitter, perhaps the most important problem was that he could restore the account of former U.S. President Donald Trump, who had repeatedly tweeted false and misleading information, and also left racist comments. His tweets played a role in instigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, during the official count of electoral votes, which was the final factor in Twitter permanently banning his account.
Musk, who aims to make Twitter a place where free speech can flourish, said he would have a different policy on permanent bans. The head of Tesla and SpaceX gave an extensive interview to the Financial Times, in which he explained his vision on this issue.
Dozens of media outlets took the words out of context and reduced their stories to headlines like “Musk fights to get Trump back on Twitter.”However, the head of Tesla was talking about something else, and Trump's name was once again raised only to attract the attention of the general public. The interview host, Benny Johnson, asked if Musk was planning to let Donald Trump back on Twitter. The engineer gave a lengthy response that clarified his vision for the Twitter ban policy.
Musk clarified that, in his opinion, real people’s Twitter accounts should not receive permanent bans at all, stressing that the former CEO of the platform, Jack Dorsey, is of the same opinion. He said that this should only be applied as a rare exception to accounts that are bots or spam/scams and lack legitimacy.
“Well, I think there’s a general question of should Twitter have permanent bans. I've talked with Jack Dorsey about this and he and I are of the same mind which is that permanent bans should be extremely rare and really reserved for accounts that are bots or spam/scam accounts — where there's no legitimacy to the account at all.”
The engineer then went on to point out that banning Trump's account did not actually have a positive effect; it alienated much of the country and nonetheless did not take away his voice. We all understand that, if there is a problem, it will not solve itself simply because we do not want to think about it. Instead, over time, such problems can linger and even grow worse.
“I do not think that it was correct to ban Donald Trump. I think that was a mistake because it alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice.”
After the former president could no longer speak on Twitter, the Trump Media & Technology Group created its own platform, Truth Social. This platform is only available in the US and Canada. Thus, Trump speaks out among like-minded people, generating even more powerful support and dividing the American community even more.
“He is now going to be on Truth Social as will a large part of the, sort of the right in the United States. And so I think this could end up being frankly worse than having a single forum where everyone can debate.”
That is why permanent bans are not a solution to problems like the Trump account. At the same time, Musk emphasized that their absence does not mean that everyone can say absolutely whatever they want. If an account says something illegal, then there should be something like a passive time-out, or the tweet can become “invisible” to other users of the platform, or it can be deleted.
“Now that doesn't mean that somebody gets to say whatever they want to say. If they say something that is illegal or otherwise is just destructive to the world then there should be a passive time-out, temporary suspension, or that particular tweet should be made invisible or have very limited traction.”
Musk explained that permanent bans fundamentally undermine the credibility of Twitter as a platform where everyone can express their opinion.
“But I think permanent bans just fundamentally undermine trust in Twitter as a town square where everyone can voice their opinion. I think it was a morally bad decision, to be clear, and foolish in the extreme.”
The main idea about Trump that Musk wanted to convey when answering questions was that banning Trump's Twitter account does not deprive him of his voice, but only strengthens him in certain circles.
“He has publicly stated that he will not be coming back to Twitter and that he will only be on Truth Social. And the point that I’m trying to make, which is perhaps not getting across, is that banning Trump from Twitter doesn’t end Trump’s voice. It will amplify it among the right. And this is why it is morally wrong and flat out stupid.”
© 2022, Eva Fox | Tesmanian. All rights reserved.
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