One year after Elon Musk took over the social media platform Twitter, now known as X, Alliance Defending Freedom International sent an open letter signed by academics, journalists, creatives, and more thanking Musk for his changes in favor of free speech and urging him to support those experiencing censorship by governments around the world.
The letter congratulates him on being a champion of free speech but cautions that free speech is under global attack.
ADF International highlighted Musk’s offer to pay the legal fees of any person unfairly treated by their employer because of something they posted or liked on X and asks that he extend that offer to those who are victims of government censorship.
The letter reads:
“Free speech is broadly protected by every major human rights treaty; however, in the West, speech increasingly is targeted by ‘hate speech’ laws. In other regions, blasphemy laws target minority groups, sometimes with the sentence of death. These repressive laws are two sides of the same coin—both punish those who speak out against state-approved views.
As the world’s meeting place—where ideas are challenged by ideas—the support of X in standing against state censorship is essential.”
The letter then lists a few notable examples of government censorship. These include Finnish member of Parliament Päivi Räsänen, who has been criminally prosecuted for posting a Bible verse on social media and opposing church celebration of homosexuality. Räsänen, along with Bishop Juhana Pohjola, were acquitted but are now being tried for the same incidents after the prosecution claimed that the court didn’t understand the supposed malicious nature of the post. If convicted in this current trial, she and the bishop are facing fines of tens of thousands of Euros and up to two years in prison.
Also noted are Mexican former congressman Rodrigo Iván Cortés and sitting congressman Gabriel Quadri, who have both been convicted of “gender-based violence,” among other charges, for disagreeing with gender theory and “denying the identity” of transgenders when they referred to them by their biological sex.
The letter also mentions efforts by the European Union (EU) to make “hate speech” a crime “on the same legal level as trafficking and terrorism.” The EU has been particularly focused on X because of its free-speech stance and is attempting to force Twitter to ban so-called “disinformation” on its platform.
Meanwhile in the U.S., the Supreme Court will hear Missouri v. Biden, a case in which evidence has shown that various federal agencies coerced social media platforms to censor content they did not want users to see. A report by a House of Representatives subcommittee, as well as court documents, prove a vast censorship effort by the federal government on issues related to COVID-19 and elections.
The letter states:
“Given your commitment to free speech and unrivaled capacity to effect change, we ask that you harness X to make clear that no one should be punished under the law for peaceful expression on X or any platform.”
Specifically, the letter signers ask Musk to take the following three actions:
1. Designate funds to support legal action challenging state-sponsored censorship of views on X, broadening your offer regarding cases in the workplace.
2. Create an intake mechanism on X whereby individuals can apply for this support.
3. Host X Spaces to bring worldwide attention to censorship cases involving both governments and the workplace.
Musk has run against the grain of social media companies, politicians, academics, and journalists who have pushed for censorship and crackdowns on so-called “misinformation,” “disinformation” or “hate speech.”
Late last year, Musk released the Twitter Files, which showed that his predecessors worked closely with government authorities to take down posts, ban users, and censor speech, including suppressing the Hunter Biden laptop news. Musk also unbanned users’ accounts including former President Donald Trump, psychologist and speaker Dr. Jordan Peterson, and Christian satire site The Babylon Bee.
X CEO Linda Yaccarino wrote a blog post published on Thursday entitled, “One year in, the future of X is bright.” In it, she stated, “Freedom of expression. X is now a place where everyone can freely express themselves, so long as they do so within the bounds of the law. We believe open and respectful discourse is the single best way for humanity to thrive.”
However, some are concerned that X isn’t living up to the “free speech absolutist” beliefs of its owner. For example, Yaccarino also wrote, “We have made real progress in our work to combat misinformation from all sides on X. Community Notes now has over 100K contributors in 44 countries and growing. This product is not perfect, but it is improving rapidly. Notes are being seen tens of millions of times per day, and they are getting much faster — a necessity in a world where breaking information is inherently uncertain and X has outperformed traditional media.”
It is notable that Community Notes, unlike traditional “fact checkers,” have frequently provided context to legacy media and left-leaning politicians and claims.
Yet Yaccarino also stated, “Our trust and safety team is working around the clock to combat bad actors and consistently enforce our rules in areas such as hate speech, platform manipulation, child safety, impersonation, civic integrity and more.”
X has a speech policy which bans various types of speech, but the degree to which it is, or can be, enforced is subjective.
Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter has been a major victory for free speech. Those who seek to silence dissent are trying to force him into line, but as of yet, he has largely continued to stick to his free speech views. The war on free speech is being fought all over the world, whether it’s the U.K.’s criminalization of silent prayer or holding a sign with a Bible verse; Muslim nations with blasphemy laws; the Chinese Communist Party shutting down any deviation from the party’s accepted views; or European nations that have criminalized stating facts about sex and biology; or the U.S. that tries to stifle factual information about COVID-19 and election information.
It should be noted that on October 18, a U.S. District Court judge sentenced satirist Douglass MacKay to seven months in prison for posting a meme about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election, after he was charged and convicted with conspiracy to deprive people of their sacred right to vote. First Amendment experts worry that the case will set a precedent that allows the government to target other users who make jokes or post allegedly false statements about any political issue, a situation that would have the immediate effect of chilling online speech.
This would be a dangerous precedent, especially given that, at present, both the censoring and the justice being administered in these areas has been anything but blind.
The world needs platforms where information can be freely accessed without government control. Xi Van Fleet, who grew up during the Cultural Revolution and as a young person was loyal to Chairman Mao Zedong, said that she didn’t realize she was brainwashed until she was in college and was exposed to foreign radio and a differing set of opinions and facts. Today, she is a leading advocate for the free flow of information, opinions, and ideas. Without it, she warns, the U.S. and other Western societies will soon be as centrally controlled as communist China.
The truth sets people free. If governments are allowed to control what people can say, hear, read, or believe, they can easily manipulate what people think is reality.
People must be free to read various takes on different issues (even jokes), make their own decisions, and seek the truth — whether those in power want them to know it or not. Otherwise, Western jails will soon be teeming with all manner of Bible quoters, satirists, skeptics, and political and medical dissidents.
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