Since Elon Musk took over Twitter in October, the transition has been chaotic, to say the least, with more public analytics counts and the introduction of blue-check drama. But his recent Twitter exchange between controversial social media personality Andrew Tate and climate change activist Greta Thunberg discussed the pros and cons of the idea of free speech on social media. resurfaced the cultural debate of Daniel Medwed, a Northeast law professor who is also a legal analyst for GBH News, joined his GBH. morning paper Host Paris Alston and Jeremy Siegel to talk about it. This transcript has been lightly edited.
Jeremy Siegel: Let’s start with Twitter in the Elon Musk era. It feels like an eternity since he took over, but it really wasn’t that long ago. He made a series of controversial changes to the platform, some of which prompted people to flee from it.
Daniel Medwed: of course. Okay, I’ll stick it out. Musk, who has the fame and fortune of Tesla and SpaceX, bought Twitter in part because it claimed it was too diligent about moderating content and censoring speech. He called Twitter the equivalent of a modern town square and claimed he wanted all these voices to be heard. Removed and created more free space. For one thing, he’s reinstated many users who had been banned for spreading hate and misinformation, including former President Donald Trump. slashed from man to his 2,700 or so. And in a sign of these changes, he relaxed protocols to stop spreading misinformation about COVID-19. So there have been many changes in this very short period of time. That’s right, Jeremy. I think it’s only been about 3 months.
Paris Alston: my goodness. So Daniel, what are the rules for governing free speech on a platform like Twitter? Because we see it all the time, right? People can say whatever hurtful things they want.And they say.I’m just using my free speech rights.These should be protected by the First Amendment. Not to mention those who say it could be the target of hate speech.
Medweed: These are really important questions. Some thoughts on this: First of all, the Bill of Rights protects all of our freedoms from excessive governmental interference. The Fourth Amendment prohibits the police from unjustly searching and seizing our property without good cause or a warrant. The Fifth Amendment prohibits the police from forcing us to hold ourselves accountable in the interrogation room. The First Amendment also protects free speech from unwarranted government encroachment. And the Supreme Court has for centuries, literally for centuries, set boundaries when governments can and cannot regulate speech. But the bottom line is that Twitter is not a government. Not really a town square. It’s just a private platform. Therefore, the First Amendment has no basis, and companies have little freedom to decide whether or not to regulate speech.
“Twitter is not a government. It is not really a town square. has the primary autonomy to
– GBH Legal Analyst Daniel Medwed
Siegel: In short, Twitter is a private company. Are there no laws regulating what conversations can be held on the platform?
Medweed: Well, there are laws. It’s just that the First Amendment almost never applies. So, for example, if someone tweets that are falsely harmful to you, harmful to your reputation or otherwise, you can always file a private tort action and claim defamation. You can. That defamation lawsuit can be tough to win, but it can always be filed. But the question isn’t about laws and regulations, it’s about what Twitter should and shouldn’t do. As a matter of corporate social responsibility, or as a business matter, should Twitter regulate speech on the margins and in the margins? And I think some advertisers have responded. The private market wasn’t as big as many people predicted, but some did.
Alston: Well, that’s an interesting way to think about it, isn’t it? These moral issues can come down to end results. A recent Twitter exchange between social media personality Andrew Tate and climate activist Greta Thunberg went viral, so let’s focus on a specific example of this. Please give me.
Medweed: Here’s what happened. It’s really pretentious. Notorious misogynist and agitator Andrew Tate was banned from his Twitter account in 2017 for hate speech. However, relaxation of protocols by Elon Musk allowed him to return to the site, and he used the opportunity to dig into renowned environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Aged, she was camping outside the Swedish parliament to demand action on climate change. Specifically, Tate tweeted her, “I have 33 luxury cars. They have a huge collective carbon footprint. Give us your email address, Thunberg responded with a great tweet, in response she sent a fictional email address that swiped on a specific part of Tate’s anatomy and told us it was very small. suggested.
Siegel: saw this And it became one of the most liked tweets ever. The Twitterverse went crazy for this one. People are calling it the greatest tweet of all time. So, free speech clearly works both ways. Were there any legal implications for this exchange?
Medweed: What’s interesting isn’t about the speech per se, but there were some indirect influences. Here’s what happened next: Tate upped the stakes by submitting an answer to Thunberg. He continued to make videos and accuse her, and within 24 hours — he was in Romania — within 24 hours, Romanian police arrested him on suspicion of trafficking. And rumors circulated that it was his video that basically led the police to his doorstep because there was a pizza box from Jerry’s Pizza, the local chain pictured in the video. Now the Romanian police immediately denied this. They said he was already on their radar screen. But the Twitterverse really went nuts. And some of the tweets were really amazing.