Musk must make sure Twitter doesn't swerve from the town square to the town urinal

His theoretically admirable commitment to free speech could be horrendous in practice


LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 01: A close-up view of the homepage of the microblogging website Twitter on June 1, 2011 in London, England. Anonymous Twitter users have recently claimed to reveal the identity of numerous high-profile individuals who have taken out legal privacy injunctions. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

April 26, 2022 09:55

I am not one to see antisemitism lurking behind every corner and take an optimistic view of life, but I am extremely worried by the proposed takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk.
I have no objections to him personally, but I am concerned by the reason he states as his motivation - to give it more freedom.

What sounds admirable in theory could turn out to be horrendous in practice. We know from the internet how what was supposed to be a Garden of Eden for knowledge and communication has turned, in part, to a hell-hole of vile rants and criminal activity.

Twitter, which is not perfect, but is still a reasonable forum for discussion, could become much more toxic if freedom is allowed to reign supreme - freedom to lie, freedom to libel, or freedom to threaten.

True freedom does not mean a free-for-all, which quickly descends into an anarchy that impinges on human rights. Unless moderated carefully, Twitter could become a cesspit for religious fanaticism and a hotbed of political toxicity.

Inevitably, Jews and Jewish life would be one of the targets. Keyboard cretins who would not dare to say something in person, and who would be barred from getting their thoughts into the printed media, will feel embolden to express antisemitic views on Twitter.

I suspect Israel would also suffer a bombardment of falsehoods from those who have the time, or the funding, to attack it as the source of the world's woes. Naturally, they would also conveniently ignore the real villains (and who may in fact be the ones financing them).

I do hope I am wrong, and one way to avoid this fate would be for Musk to ensure Twitter has strict guidelines as to fact-checking of information. It will also need to be clear about the source of tweets, so that they are not the product of bots and state propaganda.

In addition, just as newspapers can suffer financial penalties if certain rules are breached, Twitter needs hard-edged regulation so as to protect both its own integrity and the reputational safety of others.

If Musk is going to be in charge of what he calls the “town square”, he needs to take care it does not turn into the town urinal.

April 26, 2022 09:55

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive