Last month Elon Musk announced his intent to acquire Twitter for $44 billion.
Mr. Musk has an honorable goal of restoring the social media outlet as a centerpiece in the Marketplace of ideas. That Twitter would function as a key online platform for robust debate and deliberation on issues of the day — from global to local — free from political or ideological bias, intervention, or censorship — is an idea that is desperately needed.
If his goal is to increase the bandwidth of discussion and dialogue, elements so lacking in today’s political and social culture, we are all in. However, there are many systemic challenges in recalibrating Twitter as a responsible outlet for debate.
This is evident in Mr. Musk’s decision to place a temporary hold on his acquisition of the company "pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users." Hopefully this stated reevaluation was not only made based on monetizable metrics and bottom line returns.
Twitter’s deep dive into politics and censorship in recent years is well known. Less understood is Twitter’s uneven history of dealing with the leveraging of its platforms by bad actors — from terrorists to despots to racists, bigots, and anti-Semites.
For over a decade, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has released an annual report card, grading social media giants and other Internet-based platforms on how they deal with the abuse of their services by such nefarious actors.
- The grading system is based onThe company’s terms of usage delineating red lines on hate speech and terrorism-related activity (if at all).
- The company’s record in holding users accountable to its rules.
- The company’s responsiveness to users’ and public’s inquiries about incitement, targeting of communities, and promotion of terrorism.
(2022 Digital Terrorism and Hate Report Card. Credit: Simon Wiesenthal Center)
For a number of years, Twitter rated an "F."
During the height of ISIS’ terrorist reign of terror in Syria and Iraq, Twitter became its choice of communication, peaking at 200,000 tweets a day.
Some of its hashtags were advertisements for bigotry.
Twitter allowed and still hosts Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, a sponsor of terrorism worldwide, whose regime publicly executes gays, whose state institutions deny the Nazi Holocaust and mock its victims, and who threatens a "final solution" against Israel.
While Twitter has removed millions of these postings, until it was acquired by Mr. Musk, it still lacked a coherent policy to separate free speech from the inciters to violent hatred, terrorism, and genocide.
Like Mr. Musk, as a fellow American, I too believe in the First Amendment and view free speech as a unique cornerstone of our democracy. America is currently in the throes of surging hate crimes targeting Jews, Asians, African Americans, Latinos, and the LGBTQ+ community.
In my conversations with law enforcement from coast-to-coast over the past five years, they all pointed to social media as the game changer. It provides a 24/7 platform and multiplier of hate, and the key recruiting tool for extremist and lone wolf actors.
We do not look exclusively to government to dictate solutions to these challenges. We believe that combating hate crimes is everyone’s responsibility.
We need help to begin to degrade — not enhance –the pernicious marketing campaigns of genocide-seekers and Holocaust deniers like the Ayatollah Khamenei, the fake news operations of Putin’s Russia, the lies and coverups of the suffering of the Uighurs by communist China.
Most of all, for Twitter to achieve the goals that Mr. Musk has outlined, leadership from the top — not any government agency- must set a coherent set of rules and that every user must adhere to.
By all means, let’s say Yes to Free Speech but "No" to a free ride on Twitter for terrorists, racists, and bigots.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Read Abraham Cooper's Reports — More Here.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.