Elon Musk’s Twitter is caving to government censorship, just like he promised

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We don’t know if Musk knew Twitter was blocking hyperlinks to a BBC documentary in India, however it appears clear he doesn’t care.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi

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Tech firms — together with Twitter — are following the Indian authorities’s calls for to suppress a BBC documentary vital of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As reported by The Intercept and TechCrunch, Twitter and YouTube each regionally blocked The Modi Query, which investigates claims of Modi’s involvement in India’s lethal 2002 Gujarat riots. It’s certainly one of Twitter’s first tangles with India beneath the possession of billionaire Elon Musk, however contrary to some writing, the documentary’s ban isn’t an instance of Musk violating a vocal “free speech absolutist” ethos. It’s a reminder that Musk has at all times been nice with authorities censorship.

Over the weekend, Ministry of Data and Broadcasting senior advisor Kanchan Gupta tweeted that both Twitter and YouTube had complied with orders handed down by the federal government, which has labeled the BBC documentary “hateful propaganda.” The documentary has additionally been apparently eliminated by the Web Archive, though it’s not clear whether or not this was following a requirement from the federal government or a copyright criticism from the unique proprietor, and the Web Archive didn’t reply to an emailed request for remark.

Twitter not less than partially complied with India’s unusually harsh limits on social media nicely earlier than Musk’s acquisition however solely reluctantly after a raid on its offices and with legal attempts to withstand them. Musk, against this, claims to haven’t even recognized concerning the choice to censor Twitter hyperlinks. “First I’ve heard,” Musk tweeted today in response to a request for remark from lawyer David Freiheit. “It isn’t attainable for me to repair each side of Twitter worldwide in a single day, whereas nonetheless operating Tesla and SpaceX, amongst different issues.”

It’s true Musk has loads on his plate, together with an active securities fraud trial and protracted complaints from Tesla shareholders. And Twitter, like different main tech firms, was obeying speech legal guidelines worldwide earlier than the acquisition, albeit with extra resistance than Musk appears to be placing up. However it’s pretty revealing to say you didn’t discover the world’s largest democracy issuing a public assertion — by yourself platform! — that you just’d censored a journalistic investigation. The indifference is placing when Musk has spent the past couple of months castigating Twitter’s former management for allegedly colluding with numerous teams, together with the US authorities, to suppress political speech.

It’s additionally, nonetheless, not stunning. Musk bought Twitter with the professed objective of constructing it a haven totally free expression, however he has repeatedly said Twitter’s policies ought to “match the legal guidelines of the nation,” and lots of international locations’ legal guidelines (together with these of several US states) are more and more hostile to unfettered speech. Twitter nonetheless appears more likely to run afoul of presidency censorship legal guidelines, however out of cost-cutting or negligence relatively than alternative — the corporate was just sued in Germany for not eradicating antisemitic hate speech, together with Holocaust denial, which is against the law within the nation.

In case you take Musk in good religion, he’s stated he believes that authorities censorship displays the need of the individuals, who can vote on speech controls in a approach they will’t for firms. In case you don’t, you would possibly notice that Musk’s companies Tesla and SpaceX are closely depending on authorities goodwill, and he most likely received’t waste that goodwill defending a service that’s hemorrhaging funds and buried in debt. A 3rd possibility is that he merely doesn’t care that a lot. Whereas Musk is all in favour of being seen as anti-censorship, even his personal moderation rhetoric round Twitter appears inconsistent, pushed by comfort and highly specific personal convictions. That’s an unlucky destiny for a service that when severely weighed the prices and advantages of content material moderation all over the world — and fought pitched battles to defend the speech of its users from authorities censorship. However at this level, none of that’s Twitter’s greatest downside.

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