Daniella Theis: Hate must never be the price of freedom of expression

Instead, the tech giant is proposing to limit the measure to giving users only the ability to block others from messaging them. Based on previous statements by Musk, it’s understood the option will be replaced by a form of “muting” others — a pre-existing feature that allows users to virtually hide other people’s posts and comments from their view.

The big difference between blocking someone and muting someone is that the former works both ways: you, the blocker, won’t see posts or comments, and won’t be able to receive messages from the “blocked” person. They will not see any of your posts or comments. However, mute is a rather one-sided feature. However, currently, if you mute someone on X, that means you are “removing an account’s tweets from your timeline.” You don’t see the user and their output, but they can still see yours (unless your entire profile isn’t publicly visible).

For anyone following Elon Musk and his redesign of Twitter/X, this move should come as no surprise. As the news agency Reuters puts it, “the billionaire described himself as an absolutist of free speech”. In January, he called what was then Twitter “PvP [player versus player] of social media”.

That doesn’t mean the statement hasn’t met with backlash. Many, including Grimes, Musk’s ex-wife, have expressed their opinions. Responding to a post by another woman who shared her experience of stalking on social media, she said: “Blocking should be allowed, it’s dangerous for anyone dealing with stalkers.”

Musk’s intentions and announcements come in the context of a broader societal debate about when it’s appropriate – and when not – to limit voting.

The debate about the “cancel culture” should have become familiar to most people by now. Some have even called it “culture wars” between the “woke” and those who love the past or the status quo. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see one or all of these terms in the news. As I sit and write this, I see that “Fat Bottomed Girls” is trending on X. The reason? An article in the Daily Mail entitled ‘We’ll wake you up!’ reports that ‘the classic Queen song Fat Bottomed Girls has been mysteriously dropped from the group’s new greatest hits collection’.

What many of those upset seem to miss (or actively choose not to post about) is that this “crash” only happened on a device called the Yoto – a new music player for kids (although the article posted the broader term “young people”). Yoto’s website states that it is aimed at “children aged 0 to 12”, with the certified age being “children from 3 years of age”.

And yes, when I looked at the product announcement of bringing Queen to the device, the song in question was removed, presumably to ensure it was suitable for very young children. But for anyone worried about their favorite Queen classic being scrapped, cool your boots. The song remains on the album’s official track listing and is available on other (adult) streaming platforms such as Spotify.

It’s a distortion of things I’ve noticed before. I can’t help but observe that people who have been screaming that they’ve been “cancelled” are often the ones who continue to have a huge platform, appearing on talk shows, mic-handed, which thousands of Having followers and – Most of the time, they continue on their way and career.

It is the more progressive tendencies that are so often accused of stoking the fires of “alertness.” Still, I can’t help feeling that it’s the other side that likes to rely on constantly declaring a “culture war” to foment divisions.

Anyway, I digress. The main reason I’m concerned when it comes to this “free speech at any cost” approach that seems to be behind actions like Musk’s is that it actively fuels hatred and, at worst, puts people at risk.

Politicians, journalists, other public figures – many studies and reports have cataloged and highlighted the online abuse that women in public spaces in particular face, but it also happens to those outside the public eye. End Violence Against Women found that women are 27 times more likely than men to experience harassment online, that one in five women has experienced online harassment or abuse, that there has been an increase in such incidents since the pandemic recorded and that the prevalence is even worse for black women and non-binary people.

There are also signs that things have gotten worse since Musk took over Twitter. Recently, the US Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) found that hate speech on Twitter has increased in the post-Musk era and that engagement with such tweets has also greatly increased, Musk reports.

Anyway, one measure many take to protect themselves when they experience harassment is to block the perpetrators, but that’s now being questioned.

To answer the question at hand, the problem not only affects Twitter/X, but also occurs in the offline world. We saw it here in Scotland. Last week, an Edinburgh venue’s decision to cancel a fringe show that Graham Linehan was due to appear in due to concerns from the venue’s LGBTQ supporters made headlines about where the line is drawn on freedom of expression.

Finding a solution turns out to be a complicated matter. In my opinion, not having space for different opinions is not the solution. But there is also no such thing as free speech at any price, or hateful language, discrimination, or even active violence flourishing under the free speech banner.

Especially when it comes to already marginalized groups and their rights, I can hardly advocate making a microphone available to people who are actively violating these rights. I also cannot support platforms that present themselves as “player versus player”, regardless of what that means in terms of (online) safety and harassment. With regard

It should be noted that despite this recent announcement, there is no firm date as to when (or if) the option to block people will be removed from X. There’s a chance that the app might not meet the conditions that allow its availability. Both Google Play and the Apple App Store — the two app platforms that most smartphone users rely on — could put a damper on Musk’s plans do the calculation.

Still, insisting on such plans despite all the evidence that they could be harmful is a worrying prospect.

Grace Reader

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