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Twitters Trust & Safety Council and "free expression"

kat · 1 · 8668

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Offline kat

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Twitters recent Trust & Safety Council announcement has many Users concerned whether the move will have a deleterious effect on the platforms already questionable policies regarding freedom of speech. That Twitter is signally with the post intentions to censor and/or remove content, or be more aggressive and proactive in their already opaque handling of User conduct infractions. Rather than address these issues, Twitter simply assures Users can continue to enjoy the platform, and that their free expression is ensured doing so.
To ensure people can continue to express themselves freely and safely on Twitter, we must provide more tools and policies. With hundreds of millions of Tweets sent per day, the volume of content on Twitter is massive, which makes it extraordinarily complex to strike the right balance between fighting abuse and speaking truth to power. It requires a multi-layered approach where each of our 320 million users has a part to play, as do the community of experts working for safety and free expression.

It's 'lawyer speak' of course, Twitter Users don't have, and never had, "freedom of speech" or "free expression" on the platform in the sense that "freedom" to "express" or being "free" to "express" equates with the "Right" to.

For Twitter, just as it does for Facebook and all the other Social and media platforms people use, "freedom" and "free" mean "ability", or a better synonym might be "use" or perhaps "access"; Twitter provides a service to which Users have access, the act of which (accessing) has no bearing on the 'Right' of the individual to exercise an inalienable freedom - if the platform ceased to exist, the Right to speak doesn't die with it.

To it's Users in the parlance of everyday language, "freedom" and "Right" are conflated and confused to mean the same thing. To Twitter et al there are meaningful (legal) differences.

This is how Twitter appears able to skirt responsibilities they would otherwise be obligated to if the 'freedom' being spoken of pertained to the universal Human Right, whilst simultaneously and contradictively reaffirm policies as if they were. In other words, when Twitter says they want to "... ensure people can continue to express themselves freely and safely ..." they don't mean to ensure the Right to free expression. Twitter is instead simply securing Users ability to use the service as a channel or outlet to express themselves.

This slight-of-hand trick, the interpretive word-play, grants Twitter et al license to conflate an individuals safety and security with their freedom to speak - anything impeding an individuals free access to Twitter can be construed as a safety concern that has potential to undermine the service and/or User experience, especially if the imposition takes on a particular form, or is conveyed a particular way.

When voicing concerns over "Users safety" this is what Twitter means, it's a disingenuous interest in securing the individuals ability to use Twitter as a platform to 'freely express' themselves through 'free access', not that Twitter is doing so to bolster that expression as a 'Right'.
As a Human Right, the individuals Right to speak is not conditional, it is not dependent upon the persons safety, actual or imagined - some of the most profound statements mankind has writ were/are often a direct consequence of their respective authors safety being compromised, or those being spoken of.