NEW YORK—Twitter announced today that it had reached a deal with Elon Musk, selling the company to him for $44 billion.
The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.
One thing Elon Musk gets right is that major social media platforms play a very significant role now in shaping public discourse—shaping speech that’s important to our democracy. But the question of what free speech means on a social media platform is more complicated than Musk seems to realize. Most people—across the political spectrum—don’t actually want their social media platforms to be unmoderated. A platform that moderated only illegal speech would quickly be overcome by spam and garbage. That kind of platform wouldn’t work for anyone, whatever their political views. So the real question isn’t whether to moderate content but how. There’s no single “free speech” answer to that question. Moderation isn’t a matter of turning a single dial that controls how much censorship or how much free speech there is on a platform. Trade-offs are unavoidable. “Free speech” is a good starting point for the conversation, but it’s really just a starting point, as Musk is quickly going to learn.