WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 16: Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during a Senate Justice Subcommittee … [+]
This week, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) sent a letter to Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey following an earlier exchange between lawmakers and the social media platform early last December. At the time, Senator Rubio asked for an explanation for the company’s failure to remove, or at least label, a fake picture of a member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Rubio said he found it bothersome that Twitter refused to respond to basic moderation procedures and since then the microblog service has banned President Donald Trump’s report and many of his supporters for allegedly false information.
In his follow-up letter sent on Tuesday, January 19, Senator Rubio asked directly, “Please provide documentation outlining the steps for Twitter’s user-generated content evaluation process under the circumstances that lead to a review are clearly described. The company determines whether the reach of certain content should be removed, marked or deliberately restricted. “
Rubio added, “I inquired whether Twitter plans to operate in China in the future and whether the company has had discussions with relevant officials or organizations in China. This question was not answered in your company’s December 23 response letter.”
The US Senator went a step further and suggested: “The lack of an answer to this question strongly implies that access to the Chinese market is a motivating factor in Twitter’s handling of content posted by representatives of the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party were created. “
Was Rubio out of bounds?
Rubio’s letter to Twitter is noteworthy for several reasons. The first is what role, if any, the US government should play in overseeing guidelines on content moderation, or beyond, online language in general. but also how an internet platform like Twitter should moderate or otherwise control the content posted by its users.
In the case of the former edition, this was viewed by experts as very black and white.
“Government has and should not have a role in monitoring online content or the platforms it is broadcast on,” said Steve Blum, president of Tellus Venture Associates, a business and business development consultancy focused on new community development – Specializes in broadband systems and the digital media and telecommunications industries.
“It is no different than a printing press: prior restraint is forbidden in all circumstances but the most extraordinary. Prior restraint is always forbidden when it comes to political speech, extreme or not,” added Blum.
“Not least because ‘extreme’ is always in the eye of the beholder,” noted Blum. “Ted Cruz might want a certain speech to be suppressed or announced, but there will be people on the other side who disagree. Because he does not agree with the content-related moderation requests of his political opponents.”
The problem is that of content moderation, of course, and here the problem may be grays rather than black and white.
“(Twitter CEO) Jack Dorsey is catching up on content moderation. He originally proclaimed Twitter as” the freedom of speech party’s wing, “as it should be,” said Blum. “He has defied complex content moderation guidelines and tried to maintain an open platform as much as possible. Now that’s the problem. In this political environment, it’s not possible for a public company to be the free speech wing of the free speech party So he tries to adjust and is guaranteed to upset someone no matter what he does. “
Another consideration is whether Senator Rubio actually expects Twitter to change its policies.
“They don’t even have a policy,” suggested technology industry advisor Lon Safko, author of the Social Media Bible. “You don’t have to write a policy to intentionally block all conservatives [language] at this crucial time! Rubio, sending this letter to Dorsey, is like writing a letter to someone who has committed a crime asking them how they committed the crime before being arrested in hopes of a confession. “
In addition, there is the problem of the size of the Chinese market today.
“Of course Dorsey wants Twitter in China,” added Safko. “Look at the potential market which is 1.44 billion. Even a small market share of that is huge! But the question is, does China want Twitter there?”
A final problem is even the moderation of content. Where will or should the line be drawn? For some, the prohibition of a person’s voice is done in the name of freedom of speech. The question is whether this is correct and where it ends.
As seen in the recent wave of “culture breakup” anything that offends can be viewed as “hate speech” and opponents say it is silenced in the name of protecting people.
“The ultimate danger does not come from extremists, but from those who try to control fundamental rights and freedoms in order to protect us from extremists,” said Blum. “As Benjamin Franklin – a man who is not well respected by the government, whom he has brought down, he said: ‘Those who would give up essential freedom in order to acquire a little temporary security deserve neither freedom nor security . ‘”