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Taking Twitter Back To Its Roots

A quick look at what Twitter was meant to be, what it became, and what could be in store for the social media platform under Elon Musk.

According to Greek mythology, Pandora, the first woman created by the Gods, was given a box. The Gods told her it contained special gifts but forbade her from opening the box. Unable to suppress her curiosity, she disobeyed them and opened the box anyway. Out poured all the illnesses and hardships that the Gods had hidden in the box. Trying to contain those evil spirits, she quickly rushed to close the box but failed.

Twitter is a modern-day play-by-play story of Pandora's travails. A company that once embraced free speech in its original spirit and had the complete protection of the law has failed across every operational metric. For the most popular platform of its kind, Twitter has the smallest subscriber base of all the major social media networks. It did not report a profit for twelve consecutive years since its founding in 2006. How could a company that dominated microblogging become a darling of the Left and ditch conservatives when both groups overwhelmingly value free speech?

The simple answer is that Twitter went woke, abandoning its founding "Tweets must flow" business model. Reflective of its hubris, Twitter greatly expanded its goals to border on the Utopian by beginning to police speech to limit misinformation, harassment, bullying, and hate. The platform took it upon itself to tame the world's evil spirits that have existed since the Greeks. The business justification was that not doing so would make advertisers flee.

Ideologically, the change was driven by elitists within and outside the company, furious at President Trump's electoral success. It was put in place by highly paid senior executives - such as Vijaya Gadde, who reportedly earned $17 million a year to oversee policy and safety - with the consent of Jack Dorsey, the company's co-founder and C.E.O. It meant that Twitter had to update its moderation policies continuously.

As the policy manual became bigger and bigger, Twitter was forced to spend heavily on A.I. and an army of moderators to second-guess the context of everything posted to its platform and "rule" on "policy violations." Within seconds, the medium had to decide whether to allow a tweet, persuade the user to delete the post or suspend the account.

Twitter transformed itself into the world's most over-bearing nanny. Its expenses exploded, and profits suffered. Yet, Twitter consistently managed to irk millions on –the platform each day. The operational impact was that the new model became an unworkable monster.

A Joe Rogan podcast featuring Gadde and Dorsey shows how the change created havoc within the company. Gadde, as befits her career as a lawyer, never admits to left-leaning bias, at one time claiming, dishonestly, that she does not know what that means. She acknowledges that it was difficult for Twitter to police speech in two hundred countries because her team does not always understand cultural shorthands and code words that bully and drive misinformation. In other words, Twitter was always behind the curve, and as soon as it learned something new, staffers struggled to update its policy manual and act on it.

This is no way to run a social media company. On an average day, over 500 million tweets are posted. How can any organization even begin to police content on such a scale?

On the podcast, Dorsey admitted that one thing that Twitter did not do adequately was to educate users about its policies. But Americans do not have the time or patience to read contracts. They quickly cursor to the bottom of any page that presents them with legalese and hit a button to move on to the next screen. Did Dorsey expect users to understand Twitter's ever-burgeoning list of do's and don'ts just to post a 140-character message?

Twitter's folly was that it hewed from its founding principle elegantly described by former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. In United States v. Alvarez, Kennedy said that "the remedy for speech that is false is speech that is true," calling it "the ordinary course in a free society."

Twitter also ignored Congress's special gift to it and its cohorts, the 26 words of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (C.D.A.) of 1996. "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider" (47 U.S.C. § 230)."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation interprets Section 230 this way: Online intermediaries that host or republish speech are protected against a range of laws that might otherwise be used to hold them legally responsible for what others say and do. In other words, Twitter is not legally liable even if someone on Twitter plans and delivers bodily injury to someone else.

Leftists such as AOC, Anand Giridharadas, and Robert Reich have viciously criticized Elon Musk's takeover because Musk, the Kennedyisque free-speech advocate, has said that all speech on Twitter should be allowed unless it is illegal. "If people want less free speech, they will ask the government to pass laws. Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the people's will." A Musk takeover, Leftists say, will result in people leaving Twitter in droves because the platform will no longer be "safe."

In the real world, people get their information from many sources. They make informed choices about much bigger life decisions without relying on tweets. People don't need nannies to hold their hands for every tweet.

Besides, for ten years after Twitter's founding and before the new speech police arrived, misinformation was rampant on Twitter. Remember the housing crisis, Tea Party ascendance, Obamacare, and DACA debates? The world survived them all.

Moderating speech under the idea that misinformation is dangerous and that Twitter should "protect" everyone from bullying led to Musk's acquisition of Twitter. His vision is the same as that of Twitter's founders. Musk explained it in a separate interview. "Is someone you don't like allowed to say something you don't like?" he asked recently. "If that is the case, then we have free speech."

There's nothing wrong with Musk taking Twitter back to its roots. It is the proper medicine to remedy the nation from the twin epidemics of forced political correctness and cancel culture.

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