03 Jul 2019

Can Twitter censorship of politicians’ tweets ever be justified?

In an interview with RT International News, Yair Cohen – Social Media Lawyer, discusses Twitter’s recent decision to selectively hide tweets by some politicians.

Last week, the  BBC reported  that Twitter was planning to hide “rule-breaking” politicians’ tweets after  Twitter had announced that  it will hide tweets by world leaders and politicians that in Twitter’s sole opinion break its rules.

Can Twitter ever be objectives in making sure it does not censure only politicians who are on one side of the political spectrum?

Twitter can hardly be expected to be objective in making those decisions. Most of Twitter’s employees (as most of Silicon Valley’s employees) are made out of one kind of people who tend to vote one way rather than the other.

Furthermore, Twitter  employs no more than several hundred content moderators who instead of engaging in protecting vulnerable Twitter users from harassment and online abuse will now be tasked with rating politicians for being politically correct. Did Twitter get its priorities right or has it become obsessed with politics?.
Twitter censorship
As a social media lawyer who represents an increasing number of normal, decent people, who suffer tremendous abuse and harassment on Twitter, it seems to me that Twitter should really focus its content moderation efforts on matters that affect its users’ well being. Twitter should stay away from politics and instead, if it does wish to regulate its platform, regulate harassment, abuse, racism, hate speech, disinformation and incitement issues rather than interfere with the right to free speech of elected politicians.

Twitter recent attitude towards content moderation appears to be out of touch with the vast majority of its internet uses as it projects political prejudice and arrogance. It is not for a social media website to decide to what words of  what politician the voting public should be exposed.

The most worrying thing about Twitter’s announcement is that Twitter new rules of hiding certain “unpleasant” tweets, would only apply to politicians. Would it not be better to let the public decide whether they like or dislike what the politician is tweeting rather than leave the decision with a supreme, non-elected self-appointed committee of content moderators whose decision are not put to a public vote?

It seems that social media giants are actually leaving room for themselves for possibly, in the future, banning political views that they don’t necessarily agree with.

There is a a real risk that social media companies will have better and higher control over the content that electorates are offered to view. By marking, or flagging tweets of certain politicians and by ensuring that those tweets don’t show on internet search results, Twitter assumes a dangerous role for itself, a role from which it can unfairly influence outcomes of democratic elections.

As from today, Twitter is going to decide what political opinions are and are not acceptable for its users to view and it will do this without publishing a transparent criteria for its decisions. Frankly, the idea that social media companies are going to decide for members of the public what opinions and expressions are socially acceptable is very scary.


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    In the discussion about social media platforms as “publishers” of posts by users, it is worth remembering that this is not new law. See for example this case about Google reviews. https://www.smh.com.au/national/google-has-early-win-in-fighting-contempt-charge-over-defamatory-reviews-20190712-p526kc.html

    I just added “UK cyberwarfare declaration” to Social Media Law UK by Yair Cohen on #Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/channels/1464166/625405255

    I just added “RT banned from YouTube.mp4” to Internet Law Expert News on #Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/channels/internetlawexpert/617185952

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