On Musk and twitter


Over the last few days, since Elon Musk first bought majority shares and then offered to buy twitter, there has been quite a storm on the Web on the issue. Among the issues raised is what it means to free speech, and then of course, it is seen as one of the ills of capitalism.

On the second issue, we can all agree that extreme economic disparities that exist today in our societies is inimical to democracy. A society where so few are so rich or so many so poor cannot be democratic. Stopping Musk from buying twitter doesn’t help with the issue of distribution of wealth.

The matter gets more interesting on the issue ot free speech. There are voices that say one man should not have the control of such a platform and so forth. That this would lead to restrictions on free speech. From what Musk has proposed such as transparency in algorithms among others, I don’t see how this is going to be a problem. That he will give free reign to right wingers is to me not a big problem. One can always curate what they don’t want to hear.

Still on the matter of an individual owning such a platform, most mainstream media is owned and controlled by a very small number of individuals or corporations that have made it possible for them to manufacture consent. So really, as long as twitter allows anyone with a cellphone to post their bytes, does it matter who owns it?

But maybe I am missing something critical on this matter given I am not a twitter user.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

28 thoughts on “On Musk and twitter

  1. Ron says:

    Meh! What Mr. Musk chooses to do with Twitter is entirely his business. The only tweets that pique my interest are the ones left by the avian inhabitants outdoors.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nan says:

    The MAIN thing that concerns me about this (potential) transfer of Twitter ownership is that Musk has said he wants to “transform it into a platform for free speech with few restrictions.” Maybe it’s just me, but that seriously sounds like tRump could be “reinstated.” (Sidenote: In fact, such a comment makes me wonder if the Trump organization might be one of Musk’s backers for this endeavor.)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Entirely true. Musk has used twitter to label someone a paedophile. And got away with it on the basis of “free speech” even though his claims were verifiably false. The law has limits depending on the country and twitter can be used for harm and self interest — as Musk has proven time and again.

      Liked by 2 people

    • makagutu says:

      Trump has said he doesn’t want to be on twitter. He is on truth social.
      In my view, and I could be mistaken, the fewer the restrictions the better. Since I left twitter so much of what goes on there is noise to me. White noise.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nan says:

        I almost never access Twitter. Occasionally I’ll follow a link, but that’s about the extent of it, so I really don’t know whether it will be better or worse in the long run.

        Re: Trump and Truth Social: two things — (1) I read it’s not doing all that well, and (2) have you ever known Trump to be truthful?

        Like

  3. Barry says:

    Now that a Musk takeover of Twitter seems inevitable, The Pink Agendist’s comments on Musk\s concept of free speech need to be taken on board. Twitter is not a platform where a deep level of conversation is possible – essentially it’s a platform of headlines. I’m not worried about being offended by comments on Twitter, but the actual harm that can be caused. There’s far too many people who believe where there’s smoke there’s fire, and unfortunately it’s not always possible to prove that the smoke was created by an accuser and not the accused.

    In this country, the NZBORA guarantees the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form, but there are limitations – slander and libel laws for example. Unfortunately these can only be applied if the accuser resides in NZ irrespective of where the accused resides. It provides no protection if the accuser resides elsewhere.

    In this country anyone charged with a crime has the right to seek temporary or permanent suppression by the court of any published information leading to their identity. Permanent suppression is very rare, except in cases where the accused is not convicted or found not guilty, but temporary suppression is quite common. Note that this applies to the publishing of information leading to identification, not the dissemination of such information. Anyone can attend court and learn of an accused’s identity and share it in private. The ban is on publishing such information.

    By convention no NZ publishers do not publish information identifying the accused until after the accused declines name suppression or has his/her request denied as it’s not possible to “unpublish” something once it’s been published. Foreign media resources have no qualms about publishing such information, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, effectively thumbing their noses to NZ law and court orders, even feeding such information to NZ residents by way of news feeds and email notifications. There is little the NZ courts can do about it unless it’s possible to prove that whoever supplied the published information is a NZ resident and they provided the information knowing that it would be published or likely to be published.

    The problem with platforms such as Twitter is that they are effectively outside the law of any nation (with the possible exception of the US which seems to believe its laws apply everywhere – Edward Snowden, Kim Dotcom and Dmitry Sklyarov being just three examples). If you think the Murdoch empire, Fox News or the Russian Propaganda machine are in any way harmful, they pale in significance when compared the potential harm Twitter could cause under the helm of a person with an agender where “freedon” of speech surpases every other right even when it involves the spreading of falsehoods, the harassment of individuals or groups, and the harm caused when others act on false information.

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      As a social media platform, is twitter this powerful that its ownership becomes such a hot topic? I noticed while I was on twitter that moat times what was such a hot issue was not even a concern of the next guy on the street. It was sort of a bubble.
      Facebook has been implicated in allowing misinformation and being used by companies such as Cambridge analytica to manipulate the voting public here and the US, just to name a few.
      Musk, I have read, has said he intends twitter to allow such speech as is protected or defined by the courts. In this case, one would hope that malicious rumours or such will not be accepted under the new policy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barry says:

        Protected or defined by the courts: but which courts? US, UK, NZ, China, Kenya? What’s acceptable in one nation might not be in a other. Twitter, Facebook and Google have been used to thumb their noses at NZ courts and override the rights of New Zealanders – the right not to have one’s identity published until one has been convicted of a crime they have been charged with. Do you seriously believe Musk will respect our laws more than the current Twitter board which doesn’t give a toss?

        Liked by 1 person

        • makagutu says:

          Good question.
          I think it should be expected to respect the laws of the land where it seeks to operate.
          And I agree with you that this seems unlikely.

          Like

    • Ron says:

      As far as laws are concerned, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution only states that :

      “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

      Foreign governments have no obligation to follow US laws. Nor does it grant anyone the right to demand that others supply the podium from which to deliver those thoughts and opinions.

      I consider this to be a fair trade-off. You can say or publish whatever you want without interference, so long as you are willing to do so at your own expense and accept the consequences of your actions — including lawsuits for slander and libel.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barry says:

        This country doesn’t have a formal constitution limiting the powers of the legislature. Parliament is sovereign and cannot impose binding limitations on future parliaments, but the NZBORA (NZ Bill Of Rights Act) states that NZ citizens have the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form; the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, including the right to adopt and hold opinions without interference; the right to manifest that person’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, or teaching, either individually or in community with others, and either in public or in private; the right of peaceful assembly; the right to freedom of association, among many other rights and freedoms, but neither the NZBORA nor the 1st amendment are relevant to the fact that the social media giants are effectively outside the law of smaller countries such as Aotearoa, and given time and opportunity, may eventually be outside the law of the US. Allowing someone who has a history of abusing one of these platforms for their own benefit to actually own it is a step too far in my view.

        Slander and libel laws are your answer to the problem? Perhaps it might be if there’s a level playing field, but that is seldom the case. Let’s’ take an unlikely hypothetical scenario where Musk (or Trump or any other uber rich person) took a personal dislike to me and started a vicious smear campaign using every lie and every platform available to them to do me as much harm as is possible. Do you really think that I could effectively defend myself against such an assault, much less successfully seek redress? I simply don’t have the resources or the skills to do battle with such a person no matter how much I am in the right and how much they are in the wrong. They could simply continue their onslaught until I ran out of resources to challenge them. I can’t bring a case here unless the offender chose to slander me within our borders, and there’s no way in hell that I could ever raise the funds to bring a case in a US court when I have an income equivalent to approximately US$700 per month. Closing the barn doors after the horse has bolted would be more effective than taking out a lawsuit.

        Take the case where a right wing conservative here launched a hate campaign against several people with liberal ideologies. The liberals won a libel case (several in fact) and the court ordered that the libelous information be removed from several websites. The defendant refused to comply and the web hosts also refused to comply as they were located in America and cited “freedom of speech” as the reason for not doing so. The defendant’s refusal to comply with the courts eventually bankrupted him and landed him in jail, denying the libelled any financial compensation, and leaving them with several hundred thousand dollars in debt for legal fees. Meanwhile the libelous material is still sitting on the same websites and in fact continues to be updated with “new” information by an unknown assistant whose identity the web hosts refuse to divulge. And there’s not a damned thing that can be done about it. Now tell me exactly how lawsuits protect the innocent, especially across international borders.

        I really don’t give a toss about US laws. My concern is about NZ laws and how social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and even Google thumb their collective noses at them with impunity – they can be in contempt of court knowing there’ll be no repercussions.

        I receive daily emails from a number of offshore news sources and from Google and Twitter, as do hundreds of thousands of other Kiwis, yet time and time again these emails include information – essentially click bait – revealing the identities of persons who for any number of legitimate reasons may have a temporary or permanent order preventing the publication of information leading to their identity. On rare occasions these emails have contained information that could be prejudicial to a court case if a member of the jury should happen upon it. I am aware of one court case that was abandoned because information published overseas was pushed into the NZ public domain. The judge deemed a fair trial would be impossible under the circumstances. These incidents are clearly in contempt of the court, but it has no power to prevent it as the offender resides overseas, using overseas resources to push information into NZ. A situation where a Kiwi’s right to privacy and anonymity, not to mention the rule of law are being usurped by others hiding behind America’s 1st amendment.

        Those platforms claim they are not publishing but simply forwarding information already published, although the courts here disagree. The feeds/emails/websites are forms of publishing, but as they are outside the jurisdiction of NZ there’s nothing the courts or authorities can do to prevent it.

        Here’s another example. I receive several hundred unsolicited commercial emails on a typical day, but it can be up to five hundred or more, and on one day in 2018 I received a little over a thousand Spam messages. Most of these messages originate in the USA, and as best as I can determine, somewhat more than half comply with US CAN-SPAM law. However none of them, not even one, comply with NZ law, which prohibits all forms of unsolicited commercial electronic communications, with the one exception of phone calls to a landline. The only commercial emails permitted here are those one opts in to.

        If I complain about this Spam, nothing will be done if it complies with CAN-SPAM. If it doesn’t, I invariably get increased Spam from the offender in retaliation for my complaint. Apparently it’s an American “right” to know who your accuser is which surpasses my right not to be harassed. Yes, practically avery US based email provider passes on my email address and sometimes other personal information on to the Spammer. This is another case of my rights as a New Zealander not to be pestered endlessly are negated by the “rights” of American salespersons to free speech. And there’s nothing I nor the authorities can do about it short of me ceasing to use email at all (which these days is no longer a viable option).

        And yet if I were to set up a home based brothel employing four sex workers, which I am legally permitted to do, and attempted to advertise its services by using via social media (in other words, soliciting, which is illegal in most parts of the world but not in NZ), you can bet your bottom dollar that those platforms would ban my “free speech”. Sure, they can set whatever terms and conditions they please, but in the big picture of things, what causes the more harm: (a) offering sex services in return for money, which is a legitimate business in NZ, or (b) denying New Zealanders their rights to privacy even when before the courts, allowing unrestrained attacks on a person’s reputation, possibly to the detriment of their health, relationships and income and flouting court ordered protection this nation considers fair and reasonable? Musk has made his position clear, but I cannot accept unrestrained freedom of speech.

        Liked by 1 person

        • makagutu says:

          Barry, you raise good and legitimate points which I don’t claim to even be able to answer. China, for example, blocks access to google, but they have other search engines. When Nigerian govt felt slighted by twitter, they blocked access and i guess only those who had VPN could access it. I think maybe governments could compel these bodies to respect the laws of the countries in which they operate. But this would amount, sometimes, to censorship especially where you have dictatorships. And this is a solution we would most likely not go for. So it seems to me a hard place.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Barry says:

            Actually China does not block access to Google. Google searches from within China are directed to Google’s Hong Kong based servers. Google censors some information it serves in return for being allowed to service the chinese mainland. Other information is blocked by the great (fire)wall of China, sometimes referred to as the “bamboo curtain”, but that applies to all information, not just that provided by the search engines.

            I seem to recall that Google used to have servers in China but pulled out after there were criticisms over it providing information to the Chinese authorities about Chinese nationals who attempted to search for information that’s banned in China. That was many years ago so I may not have the facts exactly right.

            I think in return for national authorities not restricting public access to the internet giants, those platforms need to to be more mindful of the laws and accepted social norms of the societies they service. Most currently have policies that conform to American values and to hell with the rest of the world.

            Liked by 1 person

            • makagutu says:

              I am right about Google. Didn’t know it included noseybook as well. From Wikipedia ( I hope they are right) Google, Facebook and Twitter are all blocked in China due to the country’s Great Firewall. They can usually only be accessed via virtual private networks or VPNs. This information seems to be outdated though. You are right about Hong Kong. I am not sure about mainland China.

              I think in return for national authorities not restricting public access to the internet giants, those platforms need to to be more mindful of the laws and accepted social norms of the societies they service. Most currently have policies that conform to American values and to hell with the rest of the world.

              I agree with this, but to a point. Our laws make insulting religion a punishable offense. So far no one that i know of has been punished for this, except for politicians who have run ins with the law for being uncouth.

              Liked by 2 people

              • Barry says:

                my source was partially my memory and partially from sources such as https://www.comparitech.com/privacy-security-tools/blockedinchina/google/ and similar sites, but who am I to disagree with Wikipedia 🙂

                I stand corrected.

                Like

                • makagutu says:

                  Hahahahaha. Wikipedia could be wrong or written by an overzealous woke person 🙂

                  Like

                  • Barry says:

                    I’m only too well aware of Wikipedia’s wokeness after they started removing articles about or by non-speaking autistics based on the outdated notion that such people are not autonomous and are incapable of thinking independently.

                    I used to make a monthly donation to Wikipedia but no more. I still get requests to donate and they still get replies back stating that’s never going to happen as long as they keep silencing autistic voices.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • makagutu says:

                      My friend, you need to find some woke niche. Looks like the world is going woke in every field.

                      Like

                    • Barry says:

                      No need for me to find some woke niche. My support of and activism in gender diversity and neuro diversity (which frequently intersect) makes me, in the minds of many consecutives, very woke in the pejorative sense of following an intolerant and moralising ideology. So be it.

                      Like

      • makagutu says:

        what if it is the kind of speech i don’t want to see or hear? can’t i demand that it be removed?

        Like

        • Ron says:

          Let me put it to you this way: If we only permit the kind of speech we want to hear — and none other — can it still be called “freedom of speech”?

          Like

          • makagutu says:

            I said that tongue in cheek. Of course that wouldn’t be freedom of speech. It would be limited speech.
            I sent you mail a while back.. did you see it

            Like

  4. AtulHost says:

    I wish Mr. Musk does the needful to ensure freedom of speech. But he is a businessman too that is why I think it would be his last priority as his personal benefits would be the first priority.

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      Twitter as a business can do only so much to ensure freedom of speech. To defend freedom of speech requires that the people are actively engaged in defending it.

      Like

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