With a lot of fanfare (and catchy background music), Twitter launched the Birdwatch program, a platform that aims to encourage the “community” to identify and comment on misinformation contained in tweets. The company will initially select 1,000 such “bird watchers” to monitor the exchange of information on its once neutral platform. Not surprisingly, many of us are not thrilled with the program. While the programs do not allow direct removal of tweets, it is clearly designed to flag tweets that the majority consider misleading. This can then be used by Twitter to further support the increasing censorship of information on the Internet.
The selected bird watchers publish at least initially on a public birdwatch website as opposed to the target Twitter account.
Adding a “community-based” system is hardly an improvement over a purely “corporate-based” censorship system. Twitter continues to claim that it will regulate language, and this new platform effectively invites the community to identify those tweets that are worth flagging for possible removal or bans. The program is also likely to encourage campaigns to add such flags on the Birdwatch website to pressure Twitter to ban opposing viewpoints. It is not clear who will be watching the bird watchers in this sense.
Suspicions that this system is intended to improve Twitter’s censorship guidelines are difficult to avoid. After all, Twitter users can already mark what they see as misinformation by replying directly to a tweet or by using their own account. This is an attempt to build consensus in a community that could be used to aid the company in alleged plans for “much bigger” steps towards language regulation. Many critics are not satisfied with being able to react to opposing points of view with their own views. They want to silence opposing viewpoints and control the exchange of information. Just recently, fFormer Facebook executive Alex Stamos told CNN’s Brian Stelter that we need to find new ways to cut off “conservative influencers,” including cable news: “We have to reject the ability of these conservative influencers to reach this large audience. For example, there are people on YouTube who have a larger audience than CNN during the day.”
For advocates of free speech, the use of such community-based systems is a well-known method of restricting and controlling language. Popular language does not need protection. The key to freedom of speech is the protection of speech that a community or majority does not support.
In particular, when Dorsey appeared before the Senate to apologize as a mistake for the pre-election power outage of the Hunter-Biden scandal, the Democratic senators called for more censorship. Dorsey agreed that “Misleading information, as you know, is a big problem. It is difficult to define it fully and coherently. “Then, instead of raising concerns about censoring views and comments based on such an amorphous category, Senator Chris Coons urged him to expand the categories of censored material to prevent people from sharing what he called” climate denial ” looks at.
One of the loudest voices for censorship was Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, who seemed to be taking the opposite meaning from Twitter and admitting that it was wrong to censor the Biden story. Blumenthal said he was “concerned that your two companies are actually falling behind or falling, that you are not taking action against dangerous disinformation”. Accordingly, he asked for an answer to this question:
“Will you commit to the same kind of solid game books for changing content, including fact checking, labeling, reducing the spread of misinformation, and other steps in the upcoming election, even for politicians in the upcoming runoff?”
“Robust content change” has a certain Orwellian feel to it. It is not a content change. It’s censorship. If the Democratic Party takes action against freedom of expression, it should admit that it is the party of censorship and join those who have insisted that “China is right”.
I am an unabashed internet originalist. I have long spoken out against the demand for censorship on the pretext of creating an “honest Internet”. We discussed how writers, editors, commentators, and scholars have responded to increasing calls for censorship and language control, including President-elect Joe Biden and his key advisors. The erosion of free speech has been radically accelerated by the big tech and social media companies. The level of censorship and visual regulation has raised questions about a new type of state media in which corporations with political allies drive an ideological agenda.
As I wrote earlier, we are witnessing the death of free speech on the Internet. Of particular concern is the bypassing of scholars and reporters that this is not a real free speech issue as they are private companies. The first amendment aims to address government restrictions on freedom of expression. As a private company, Twitter is not subject to this change. However, private companies can destroy freedom of expression through private censorship. It’s called the “Little Brother Problem”. President Trump can be punished for turning a “little brother” into a “big brother” problem. However, this changes the fundamental threat to freedom of expression. This is denial of freedom of speech, a principle that goes beyond the first change. Indeed, some of us consider free speech a human right.
Consider racial or gender discrimination. It would be wrong for federal law to just ban such government discrimination. The same goes for freedom of speech. The first change is limited to government censorship, but freedom of expression is not limited in the same way. Those of us who believe in freedom of speech as a human right believe that it is morally wrong to deny it as a private or state entity. This does not mean that there are no differences between public and private measures. For example, companies can control freedom of speech in the workplace. You have a recognized right to freedom of expression. However, the social media companies were set up as language forums. Indeed, they sought immunity from false claims that they were not making editorial decisions or regulating their positions. Nobody says these companies are breaking the law by denying freedom of expression. We say they deny freedom of speech as companies that offer language platforms.
This is why these seemingly harmless bird watchers are a problem for some of us. They are being added as a community component to a growing system of internet censorship. If you watch your neighbors and Twitter watch you, free speech on the internet will continue to decline.