Design & Technology | Citizenship | PSHE

Musk promises free speech revolution

Should Twitter be moderated? The world’s richest man believes in colonising Mars, extreme capitalism and says he is a free speech absolutist. Human rights groups are worried.  “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means”. That was what Elon Musk said as he took over the giant social media platform.  He promises free speech. This probably means that more posts will be allowed across Twitter. Not so many will be blocked. Some users, like Donald Trump, might even be allowed back.  For some, this is a big problem. Critics say having fewer rules online puts marginalised groups in danger from racist, sexist and homophobic abuse.  This makes it harder for people from those groups to express their opinions online. So what seems like complete freedom of speech actually ends up silencing the least powerful. This debate has been raging for a long time. The first person to fight for unrestrained free speech was 19th-Century English philosopher John Stuart Mill.  He argued that even if an idea were not true, it could challenge and improve fixed ideas. So free expression would both produce better ideas and prevent people from becoming too stuck in radical, inflexible beliefs.  In this way, society would always benefit from people voicing their ideas, even if they seemed bad.  But Mill's ideas were unpopular. Many argued that challenging people’s ideas does not lead them towards compromise; it encourages them to dig still deeper into their opinion. But Mill’s ideas gained wider acceptance during the Cold War. Advocates of complete freedom of speech argued that totalitarian states were a bitter reminder of the consequences of allowing the state to control what can be said. However messy the results, they claimed, it is always necessary to uphold freedom. Should Twitter be moderated? Voice of moderation Yes: The voices of the powerful are always louder than those of the marginalised. Removing any restrictions on speech does not level the playing field; it just entrenches their advantage. No: It is simply too dangerous for a free society to allow some people to determine which ideas are wrong or offensive. We all have to be prepared to raise our voices to defend our principles, instead of silencing dissent. Or… What Twitter does only matters so much. Its users are still bound by the laws that already exist to prevent hate speech and unfounded allegations against individuals. KeywordsElon Musk - A South African-born entrepreneur whose companies have included the online payment service PayPal.

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