Senator Josh Hawley has been an outspoken critic and skeptic of Twitter during his time as a Senator. Yesterday, Hawley sent a letter to Elon Musk following his purchase of Twitter.
Hawley congratulates Musk on his acquisition and expresses that he is hopeful that Musk ensures the platform is committed to maintaining free speech on the platform. Hawley drags on Twitter for avoiding accountability for its shady policies regarding content moderation, viewpoint discrimination, suppression of content, and company security.
Hawley draws attention to his most important request against Twitter, which was to conduct a “third party audit and release all the results to the public, in full.”
Given that Musk is in charge of the company now, it seems that this could become an actual possibility to see the extent to which Twitter purposely intervened in suppressing certain viewpoints through the use of malicious content moderation.
Hawley lists five main points that he wants to see investigated:
- Who was responsible for deliberately suppressing the New York Post’s now-vindicated reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop and business dealings?
- How many Twitter users have had their accounts suspended, and why?
- How many Twitter users have been shadow banned, and why?
- Do Twitter’s shadow banning and suspension patterns evince a consistent political bias?
- Have Twitter employees, since news of your acquisition of the platform became public, made changes to the platform or deleted records of their time at the service?
If Musk and Hawley share the same view that platforms like Twitter and Facebook now represent the de facto public square, then an audit of this manner will prove essential to unveil the extent of Twitter’s corruption and the actors responsible.
Musk has expressed his discontent with Twitter’s practices on his Twitter many times. Most recently, he expressed discontent with the suppressing of the New York Post’s story on Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 26, 2022
He has also posted memes regarding the shadow banning of certain users.
shadow ban council reviewing tweet … pic.twitter.com/cawjtwc7CW
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 23, 2022
Interestingly, it seems Elon’s battle has just begun. EU Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton told the Financial Times, “Elon, there are rules. You are welcome but these are our rules. It’s not your rules which will apply here.”
Breton also said, “Anyone who wants to benefit from this market will have to fulfill our rules. The board [of Twitter] will have to make sure that if it operates in Europe, it will have to fulfill its obligations, including moderation, open algorithms, freedom of speech, transparency in rules, obligations to comply with our own rules for hate speech, revenge porn [and] harassment.”
It is unclear whether Breton recognizes that fulfilling freedom of speech while simultaneously moderating hate speech is almost inarguably mutually exclusive. This is not a defense of calls for violence, but the contradiction certainly calls into question just how free speech can be when it is arbitrarily enforceable.
Twitter user Aldo Buttazzoni pointed out the concerns between Musk’s Tesla and the CCP – an aspect of the battle for free speech that has not yet made it to the mainstream.
While Elon Musk buying Twitter is exciting, it may not usher in the new era of free speech so many are hoping for. Tesla’s business ties in China are extensive and the CCP will undoubtedly use this leverage to influence the new direction of Twitter. 🧵
— Aldo 🌞 (@AldoButtazzoni) April 27, 2022
Musk seemingly addressed the statement by Breton in a pinned tweet on Tuesday.
By “free speech”, I simply mean that which matches the law.
I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law.
If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect.
Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 26, 2022
Although he will comply with EU laws, he will not comply with attempts to censor beyond what the law enshrines. Musk is yet to make a comment about his business operations in China and how he will deal with attempts by the CCP to enforce their censorship laws on Twitter.
Overall, Musk’s takeover of Twitter has opened a new front in the battle for free speech across the globe.