A Test for Musk

how will he handle it?

Buried in this story about Elon Musk announcing his plans to convene a “Council” to make the tough, politically fraught content moderation calls (Ayn Rand’s “Anthem,” anyone?), was this gem:

“ ‘In Europe, the bird will fly by our 🇪🇺 rules,’ said the European commissioner for the internal market Breton.”

He may as well have said, “The bird will fly according to our whim,” because their rules are non-objective. Perhaps he should have cut to the chase and said, “In Europe, you will think what we allow you to think.”

Hard to believe this is being said by a human being, in a position of power and authority, in the twenty-first century.

Objective rules of content moderation focus on (1) rights violations or threats of same, (2) ridding platforms of spam and bots, and (3) giving tools to users so that they may curate the legal speech on their feeds according to their own preferences. Other than that, there are creative ways to navigate the myriad non-objective constraints on social media platforms which exist today, but the goal of this last should always be to educate towards a proper policy involving (1) – (3). 

In the United States, the non-objective constraints on platforms come primarily from the app stores, as our First Amendment jurisprudence is still quite good (tests coming in the appeals of Florida’s and Texas’s attempts to regulate social media platforms). But in Europe and elsewhere, things are very different. Will Musk rise to the challenge, and truly defend free thought and free expression? Time will tell.

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