Opinion

America Doesn’t Need to Reimagine Free Speech

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Posted: Apr 29, 2022 12:01 PM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
America Doesn’t Need to Reimagine Free Speech

Source: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Free speech is a bedrock principle Americans take for granted. 

When foreigners visit our nation, they are astonished to see us speak our minds, peacefully assemble, and criticize our government without fear of retribution. 

Many on the political Left, however, complain permitting “unfettered” free speech in digital spaces is problematic and anti-democratic—an act, in their view, that must be summarily quashed. 

Thankfully, efforts to reimagine the First Amendment are being challenged.

In Elon Musk We Trust — For Safeguarding Free Speech

Earlier this month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed interest in buying Twitter. 

“Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square. So it’s just really important that people have both the reality and the perception that they’re able to speak freely within the bounds of the law,” Musk said at the annual TED Conference in Vancouver, Canada. “This is not a way to sort of make money. My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important.” 

This week, the company announced him as its new owner—a move praised by co-founder Jack Dorsey. 

“Solving for the problem of it being a company however, Elon is the singular solution I trust. I trust his mission to extend the light of consciousness,” Dorsey wrote

He added, “Elon’s goal of creating a platform that is 'maximally trusted and broadly inclusive' is the right one.”

"I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential – I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it,” Musk said in an official press release.

To some it’s “very dangerous” a non-leftist billionaire plans to take the social media giant private. What’s dangerous about viewpoint neutralityAllowing critics to freely use Twitter? Nothing. 

Very online progressives also fumed at the news. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) called for “algorithmic justice.” MSNBC host Joy Reid bizarrely claimed the billionaire longs for the days of South African apartheid. And former Clinton-era Labor Secretary Robert Reich desperately wants Musk to unblock him—dismissing his actions as self-serving.

More positively, dormant accounts are being reactivated and first-time users are flocking to the platform. Why? People are excited about Musk taking Twitter in a new direction.

Biden Admin Creating New Board to ‘Combat’ Disinformation

Two days after Musk’s update, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the creation of the Disinformation Governance Board (DGB). 

According to POLITICO, DGB will “coordinate countering misinformation related to homeland security, focused specifically on irregular migration and Russia.”

It’s been rightly compared to the Ministry of Truth made famous in George Orwell’s 1984 book. 

More troubling is this: Nina Jankowicz, a former disinformation fellow at the Wilson Center, will lead the DGB as Executive Director despite her history of spreading inaccurate stories online.

The New York Post highlighted her past tweets questioning the validity of the Hunter Biden laptop story: 

"Jankowicz had also tweeted a link to a news article in October 2020 that she said cast 'yet more doubt on the provenance of the NY Post’s Hunter Biden story.'

“'Not to mention that the emails don’t need to be altered to be part of an influence campaign. Voters deserve that context, not a [fairy] tale about a laptop repair shop,' she added in another tweet."

In her announcement, the self-described Russia expert tweeted, “Now that I've got it: a HUGE focus of our work, and indeed, one of the key reasons the Board was established, is to maintain the Dept's commitment to protecting free speech, privacy, civil rights, & civil liberties.”

But she also told NPR she “shudders” at the thought of free speech absolutists like Elon Musk “taking over more platforms.”

When pressed by Fox News White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich about DGB’s mission, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded, “It sounds like the objective of the board is to prevent disinformation and misinformation from traveling around the country in a range of communities. I'm not sure who opposes that effort."

Elon Musk called the DGB’s formation “discomforting.”

Unsurprisingly, some have encouraged the creation of a real-life Ministry of Truth.

In 2020, WIRED suggested the government create one, arguing, “What’s more, the powers that be lack an effective regulatory mechanism for dealing with the next phase of the disinformation age, when indistinguishable fakes will flood the internet. While countless commentators have viewed 1984 as a black cauldron simmering with horrors to avoid, we may need to salvage the idea of a Ministry of Truth in order to preserve what’s left of our shared reality.” 

Talk about terrifying.

Conclusion

Undoubtedly, more speech is good for our constitutional republic. Better speech can effectively counter bad speech. Unlike the Biden administration, Elon Musk grasps this concept well. 

To foster a more perfect union, let’s allow the market— not government— to correct our social media woes.