New Twitter Rules Violate Spirit of a Free and Open Internet

“Google, Amazon Web Services and Twitter, among others have violated the foundational concept that the internet should be free and open, replacing it with the autocratic idea that unelected billionaires should determine what their customers are allowed to say and think.” – Richard Manning, President of Americans for Limited Government

Twitter announced a new set of rules on Tuesday that effectively bans the dissemination of memes and the mockery of public figures.

The changes come one day after Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey resigned to usher in a new era under free-speech foe and new CEO Parag Agrawal, who, while he served as Twitter’s chief technology officer, expressed disregard for the First Amendment.

In a November 18, 2020 interview with MIT Technology Review Editor-in-Chief Gideon Lichfield, Twitter’s then-Chief Technology Officer Agrawal was asked how Twitter can both censor misinformation from its platform and still allow free speech.

“Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment, but our role is to serve a healthy public conversation and our moves are reflective of things that we believe lead to a healthier public conversation.

“The kinds of things that we do about this is, focus less on thinking about free speech, but thinking about how the times have changed.”

“One of the changes today that we see is speech is easy on the internet. Most people can speak. Where our role is particularly emphasized is who can be heard.”

Under the new Twitter policy, photos of public figures will be subject to removal based on the  platform’s desires.

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“This policy is not applicable to media featuring public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweet text are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse,” the policy states. “However, if the purpose of the dissemination of private images of public figures or individuals who are part of public conversations is to harass, intimidate, or use fear to silence them, we may remove the content in line with our policy against abusive behavior.”

Twitter clarified that exceptions would be made for content that according to Jordan Boyd at the Federalist, “corrupt left-wing corporate media outlets deem acceptable.”

“We will always try to assess the context in which the content is shared and, in such cases, we may allow the images or videos to remain on the service. For instance, we would take into consideration whether the image is publicly available and/or is being covered by mainstream/traditional media (newspapers, TV channels, online news sites), or if a particular image and the accompanying tweet text adds value to the public discourse, is being shared in public interest, or is relevant to the community.”

Americans for Limited Government (ALG) President Richard Manning said “Google, Amazon Web Services and Twitter, among others have violated the foundational concept that the internet should be free and open, replacing it with the autocratic idea that unelected billionaires should determine what their customers are allowed to say and think.”

Some Republicans have argued that tech companies should no longer enjoy federal protections afforded by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act because they have censored conservatives and so violated the spirit of the law, which states that the internet should be “a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.”

Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri and a frequent critic of technology companies, introduced a bill that would eliminate the immunity under the law unless tech companies submitted to an external audit that their content moderation practices were politically neutral.

“With Section 230, tech companies get a sweetheart deal that no other industry enjoys: complete exemption from traditional publisher liability in exchange for providing a forum free of political censorship,” Sen. Hawley said in a press release. “Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, big tech has failed to hold up its end of the bargain.

“There’s a growing list of evidence that shows big tech companies making editorial decisions to censor viewpoints they disagree with. Even worse, the entire process is shrouded in secrecy because these companies refuse to make their protocols public. This legislation simply states that if the tech giants want to keep their government-granted immunity, they must bring transparency and accountability to their editorial processes and prove that they don’t discriminate.”

Conservatives who are fed up with the increasingly autocratic policies of big tech can go to alternative social media sites such Parler, GETTR, Gab, and Rumble, and Locals.

“These sites don’t censor or hide content based on a political agenda,” explained ALG Communications Coordinator David Potter. Potter is a millennial who has been active on social media since he was in middle school. “I never imagined we’d see the kind of censorship of conservatives that we are seeing today,” Potter said. “I always thought the internet would be a free and open space in which all ideas competed equally. Instead, the big tech sites I grew up with are rejecting the free and open exchange of ideas in favor of censorship.”

Like millions of other Americans, Potter said he’s going to alternative social media sites that uphold the promise of political neutrality.

Catherine Mortensen is Vice President of Communications at Americans for Limited Government.

Cross-posted with The Daily Torch


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