According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of speech is an inescapable right. However, “defender” organizations claim that “freedom of expression is not an absolute right” after Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter.
The tycoon has assured that the purchase of the social network is primarily due to his desire to put an end to censorship on a platform where comments and opinions were arbitrarily blocked on the grounds that they violated Twitter’s guidelines and conditions.
“Freedom of expression is not an absolute right” according to Deborah Brown
Now human rights groups told Reuters news agency their concern about alleged hate speech on Twitter, after Musk assured that the social network would become a public square for expression.
“Regardless of who owns Twitter, the company has human rights responsibilities to respect the rights of people around the world who rely on the platform. Changes to its policies, features, and algorithms, big and small, can have disproportionate and sometimes devastating impacts, including offline violence,” Deborah Brown, a digital rights researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters in an email.
“Freedom of expression is not an absolute right, which is why Twitter needs to invest in efforts to keep its most vulnerable users safe on the platform,” added Brown who has also pointed to the alleged “risks of having global communications platforms that people around the world rely on to express themselves, engage in public debate, and challenge power, in private hands and subject to non-transparent corporate deals.”
“It’s a danger to have so much power in your hands,” says Anthony Romero
Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union also spoke out expressing concern about Musk being the new owner of Twitter:
“While Elon Musk is an ACLU card-carrying member and one of our most significant supporters, there’s a lot of danger having so much power in the hands of any one individual,” he said.
Amnesty International’s Michael Kleinman calls for moderation of speech.
Amnesty International followed suit, saying in a statement that it was concerned about any potential decisions Twitter may take to erode enforcement of policies and mechanisms designed to moderate hate speech online.
“The last thing we need is a Twitter that willfully turns a blind eye to violent and abusive speech against users, particularly those most disproportionately impacted, including women, non-binary persons, and others,” said Michael Kleinman, director of technology and human rights.
What is curious about these statements is that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Before Musk’s purchase, Twitter had become a platform accused of censorship for blocking comments and opinions of conservative leaders; or for censoring relevant information from media considered uncomfortable by Democrats in the United States, leftist leaders, and progressive movements.