Freedom of speech is an important and sometimes delicate thing. I’m a big believer in it, though I also believe freedom of speech does not grant freedom from the consequences of that speech. If someone chooses to be a misogynistic, racist, bigoted troll, they have to accept the repercussions of that choice. A lot of people don’t like the idea that they should be accountable for their behaviour, and Twitter is an avenue for those who seek to avoid being held responsible.
I have personally been witness to vile and cruel behaviour on Twitter, and I’ve been the target of such behaviour too. I’ve reached a point in my life where I do not care what people say about me – I laugh at the trolls and their cowardly behaviour – but for others there are deeply wounding consequences of the jibes and insults. Twitter often fails the victims of abuse, and it seems this is likely to get worse with Elon Musk taking over the social media platform.
Mr Musk has spoken of the importance of free speech, but does he understand the consequences of letting people run riot? Twitter is already somewhat lawless – how does Mr Musk plan to prevent trolling and abuse on what is now his platform? The richest man in the world now also controls a platform containing millions of voices – how will he shape the narrative? Mr Musk has in the past presented some dubious views on the covid pandemic, but even that pales before what he could do. At a time when the cost of living is rising and global problems of poverty, homelessness and famine remain very serious, will Mr Musk use Twitter to promote the idea that his vanity projects are somehow a better use of time and money?
I have no immediate plans to quit Twitter. For all its flaws, I have found it to be a useful medium. However, nothing is set in stone, and the direction of the platform will determine whether or not I stay or go. Perhaps now would be a good time to advertise my forums?! In the meantime, please check out the thoughts of my friends Bruce and Jill on this subject, and I’ll leave you with this thought – perhaps we should tag Mr Musk in every far-right, homophobic, transphobic, racist and sexist tweet we encounter, to highlight the scale of the problem.