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

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Tech corporations — together with Twitter — are following the Indian government’s calls for to suppress a BBC documentary vital of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As reported by The Intercept and Political Triangle, Twitter and YouTube each domestically blocked The Modi Question, which investigates claims of Modi’s involvement in India’s lethal 2002 Gujarat riots. It’s one among Twitter’s first tangles with India below 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 positive with government censorship.

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

It’s true Musk has quite a bit on his plate, together with an energetic securities fraud trial and protracted complaints from Tesla shareholders. And Twitter, like different main tech corporations, was obeying speech legal guidelines worldwide earlier than the acquisition, albeit with extra resistance than Musk appears to be placing up. But 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 putting when Musk has spent the past couple of months castigating Twitter’s former management for allegedly colluding with numerous teams, together with the US government, to suppress political speech.

It’s additionally, nevertheless, not shocking. Musk bought Twitter with the professed aim of constructing it a haven without cost expression, however he has repeatedly mentioned Twitter’s insurance policies ought to “match the legal guidelines of the nation,” and lots of international locations’ legal guidelines (together with these of a number of US states) are more and more hostile to unfettered speech. Twitter nonetheless appears possible to run afoul of government censorship legal guidelines, however out of cost-cutting or negligence moderately than selection — the corporate was just sued in Germany for not eradicating antisemitic hate speech, together with Holocaust denial, which is unlawful within the nation.

If you are taking Musk in good religion, he’s mentioned he believes that government censorship displays the need of the individuals, who can vote on speech controls in a manner they’ll’t for firms. If you don’t, you may be aware that Musk’s companies Tesla and SpaceX are closely depending on government goodwill, and he in all probability gained’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. While Musk is all for 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 after severely weighed the prices and advantages of content material moderation around the globe — and fought pitched battles to defend the speech of its users from government censorship. But at this level, none of that is Twitter’s largest drawback.

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