Elon Musk’s interpretation of ‘free speech’ is once more being questioned, with Twitter proscribing customers’ capability to share links to Substack newsletters, whereas additionally stopping Substack customers from embedding tweets of their content material.
Over the past two days, Twitter and Substack customers have been seeing warnings pop-up, in each apps, when attempting to hyperlink to the opposite.
On Substack, when authors have tried to embed a tweet, they’ve been seeing this error message:
Whereas on Twitter, sharing Substack hyperlinks has been restricted, whereas attempting to interact with posts that discuss with Substack content material has additionally been halted.
Why? Properly, it’s possible due to this:
Earlier this week, Substack previewed a new, Twitter-like ‘Notes’ element, which can seemingly replicate Twitter performance inside the platform itself. Elon doesn’t like copycats, as he’s previously made clear, and evidently Twitter is now taking motion to punish Substack for its perceived insolence.
There’s been no official rationalization from Twitter on this, however the Substack group has put out a statement, criticizing Twitter for proscribing its entry.
“We’re disappointed that Twitter has chosen to restrict writers’ ability to share their work. Writers deserve the freedom to share links to Substack or anywhere else. This abrupt change is a reminder of why writers deserve a model that puts them in charge, that rewards great work with money, and that protects the free press and free speech.”
Which is attention-grabbing, given Musk’s very vocal help without cost speech rules, calling himself a ‘free speech absolutist’, and presenting this as a key purpose for his $44 billion buy of Twitter. However as famous, historical past means that Musk’s view on free speech possible differs from what you’d assume.
Musk’s monitor document on this truly goes again past his buy of Twitter. In late 2021, for instance, Musk tried to stop a Twitter user from sharing details of his travels on his private jet, a case which later turned an excellent larger level of rivalry as soon as he bought the app.
The ‘ElonJet’ account, which displayed the place and when Elon’s jet was touring, utilizing publicly accessible flight information, was initially showcased by Musk for example of his dedication to free speech, by permitting it to proceed, regardless of it revealing details about his actions. However then, final 12 months, Elon banned the account anyway, as he implemented new rules at the app which outlawed all types of stay location monitoring of people by way of tweet.
So free speech is okay, besides when it might, probably, be dangerous to Elon, and even inconvenient – but that very same logic will not be relevant to others, like when Elon baselessly accused a cave diver of being a pedophile in 2018, which has since led to ongoing harm for that individual.
Musk’s firms even have a historical past of in search of to stifle competitors, and even important opinions, the place potential.
Final 12 months, Musk’s EV firm Tesla launched legal action against a car reviewer who criticized the Tesla Mannequin 3’s auto-braking system. The reviewer, who had a distinguished TikTok channel, claimed that Musk’s firm released his personal information, and paid for social media campaigns to enlarge the lawsuit towards him, in an effort to discredit and make an instance of him.
So once more, free speech is okay, besides when it’s probably dangerous to Musk or his enterprise pursuits. Which, you’ll assume, would additionally imply that Elon would have some fairly good perspective on the potential hurt that may be attributable to completely free and open speech, with no restrictions, on condition that he’s been attempting to restrict such round his personal private model for years.
However alas, no, that’s not how Musk sees it. As a result of his perspective on the world is totally different to yours, as a result of he’s one of many richest individuals on the planet, and his experiences usually are not the identical.
Even in his time as Twitter chief, Musk’s actions haven’t mirrored free speech ‘absolutism’, even, as Musk says, inside the limits of the regulation.
In December final 12 months, Elon banned all links to other social platforms via tweet, as means to stifle competitors (which was later reversed), whereas Musk has additionally cut off all third-party developers that created Twitter-like experiences in their apps. Elon has additionally suspended journalists for saying things he didn’t like, whereas he’s additionally complied with requests from the Indian Authorities to take down unfavorable content, one thing that earlier Twitter administration had made a stand against.
This isn’t ‘free speech’, as Musk has repeatedly said. In reality, in some instances, it’s virtually the precise reverse, with Musk in search of to make use of Twitter as a way to attenuate detrimental studies about him and his enterprise – or actually, something that he simply doesn’t like, as a result of he can.
Which would be the broader focus for Musk in buying the platform, the capability to make use of Twitter as a way of narrative management, so as to dilute or management reportage by manipulating the media cycle.
As many have famous, Twitter has an outsized affect on this respect as a result of it’s relied upon by so many journalists. The velocity of supply makes Twitter the right platform for staying up on the most recent information, and what’s tweeted now usually turns into the main information of the day, as reporters work to get the most recent scoop, as quick as potential.
Former President Donald Trump weaponized this aspect, utilizing tweets to share his messaging, rapidly and simply, which frequently noticed his tweeted feedback changing into the primary media focus at any given time. That additionally enabled Trump to shift that focus every time he wanted, by tweeting out controversial takes to collect up consideration at opportune occasions.
Musk might be doing the identical. For instance, earlier this week, Twitter changed its traditional bird logo to a Doge icon, which can be the image for Dogecoin, which comes as Musk is being sued for $258 million over promotion of Dogecoin to artificially inflate the cryptocurrency’s value.
The change meant that should you went looking for tales about ‘Elon Musk’ and ‘Dogecoin’, the majority of protection was about Twitter altering its emblem, not concerning the extra detrimental Musk racketeering lawsuit.
Perhaps, that might be a way of narrative management, or manipulation of media traits – and once more, on condition that so many journalists depend on Twitter to remain knowledgeable, Musk might have an outsized affect on this respect.
Which additionally raises questions on what ‘free speech’ truly means when Musk says it, and whether or not your interpretation of such is similar in context.
Even right now, with Twitter updating its rules around Abuse and Harassment, Musk has said that customers should go ‘over-the-top by repeatedly harassing the same account with no provocation to get their post bounced’. Will that apply to Elon himself? For those who had been to repeatedly harass Elon straight, would he be as open to permitting you to remain within the app?
The nuances listed below are important, and while you view Elon’s phrases, compared to his actions, there’s a mismatch in strategy, which is critical.
You might help Elon’s stances, however how they’re utilized is equally value noting.
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