Social media moderators can’t be stuck with the job forever. Eventually, the courts may need to decide.
The saga of the Twitter Files continues to unfold on Capitol Hill — to the unabashed delight of conservatives and the utter disdain of liberals. While mainstream press coverage has been spotty and speculative — at best — the episode, “billionaire buys company, exposes internal communications, a circus ensues — will probably go down in history as one of the most interesting events of this decade.
After all, this sort of behind-the-scenes look at fortune 500 corporate goings-on is highly unusual, if not unprecedented. Elon Musk's decision to buy Twitter and subsequently air all its old dirty laundry flies in the face of every free market principle espoused by capitalism and democracy since the Industrial Revolution.
The new owner of a company — any company, be it a multi-billion-dollar social media bet or a hot dog stand — usually wants to preserve that company’s reputation and profitability at all costs. Else, why buy it?
Not so Elon Musk.
Buying such a huge company, then blowing it up, is rare enough for an honorable mention in the history books, surely. But as surprising as the act itself was, one of the most central revelations of the Twitter Files was almost anti-climactic in its simplicity.
More than anything, the Twitter Files revealed that the subject of censorship, or as it's called in Silicon Valley “content moderation”, is a great cosmic black hole fraught with conflicting moral conundrums, catch-22s, and Constitutional quicksand.
Coming as a surprise to absolutely no one, the internal emails of Twitter execs tasked with choosing what content social media platform users get to see revealed an inundation of moderation demands and objections to censorship. Questions about liability for illegal content posted by platform users flew equally fast and furious in recent years.
These are industry-wide issues social media platforms are facing in other countries as well. Twitter isn’t only answering questions about censorship on Capitol Hill. Increasingly, around the world, countries are turning to the courts to ultimately make decisions about content…