What if Twitter stopped trying to establish the truth of what is posted there?

A typical reaction to Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter seems to be that it is easy to toss out a term such as “free speech” but that it is difficult to implement a plan. Internet conversations need moderation, is the theory, especially on platforms where users aren’t authenticated by real name.

Here’s a tweet from a friend back in Boston, a law firm partner:

Toucan Sam has pointed out here that I myself established a comment moderation policy on photo.net, carried over into this blog. Sam’s tweet got me thinking about whether there was a difference between what Twitter has been doing and the policy that I established. I responded to Sam:

photo.net never tried to do what Twitter tries to do. We moderated out Reader A attacking Reader B. We never deleted content because we believed it to be false and thought that readers needed to be protected from misinformation/disinformation. The antidote to someone saying something false, e.g., “don’t go to France because everyone there is rude”, was other readers posting their own experience and perspective, e.g., “French people were nice to me.”

The most famous Twitter bans have been because Twitter said that it believed information to be false. The New York Post’s stories regarding a laptop allegedly belonging to Joe Biden, for example. A long list of folks saying that COVID-19 vaccines weren’t preventing infection with COVID-19. People saying that children were not experiencing an “emergency” such as they needed to be injected with an emergency use authorized COVID-19 vaccine.

What if Elon Musk simply got Twitter out of the business of figuring out whether tweets were true, false, misinformation, disinformation, etc.? Would that solve most of what irks people regarding Twitter as the public square?


19 thoughts on “What if Twitter stopped trying to establish the truth of what is posted there?

  1. Did Twitter really believe that the Hunter Biden laptop story was false? It is more likely that it believed that the story would have undue negative influence on the election.

    Likewise with bans on Alex Berenson and the Babylon Bee. The problem is not that their posts were false, but that they undermined some official narrative that Twitter management wanted to preserve.

    I read somewhere that, of Twitter employees on record as making political donations, 99% have been to Democrats. They probably also believe in masking, vaccinating, and affirming chosen pronouns.

  2. In addition to not trying to ascertain the truth of posts, Elon must eliminate bots, sock accounts and troll farms. I don’t care if what you say is wrong (as long as it is not defamatory), I can offer information to the contrary. I do care if you automate or pay other people to troll, effectively overwhelming the discussion. I think Elon has said those are his goals.

    • Can you provide an example of some of this? I have been browsing around Twitter recently and nothing jumped out at me as having come from a robot.

    • Here is a website where you can buy Twitter followers, likes, retweets, etc. https://www.instafollowers.co/buy-twitter-followers.

      In their own words: “As InstaFollowers, we provide a lot of services and products related to social media platforms. Our Twitter product line consists of followers, likes, retweets, and video views. Some of these products, like the Twitter Followers service, have two options: regular and real. The regular service includes realistic bots, while the real option gives you real followers.”

      For example, they charge $3 for 100 “regular” followers (i.e. bots) and $9 for 100 “real” followers.

      I agree with Anon — it would be great if this sort of gaming can be eliminated. I also wonder if Twitter will tweak their recommendation engine objective away from traditional Wall Street metrics in favor of something that more directly benefits the user. If you get this stuff right I don’t think content moderation matters much.

    • George-

      I don’t see any way to stop the bought “real” followers – do you?

  3. Based on your Boston lawyer friend tweet it is clear that US needs to close law school and cancel law bar and lat anyone practice law; why would “bro speech” whatever zer meant by the phrase would not be part of free speech?

    • Sam graduated from Boston College Law School in 1990. Is it fair to hold current law schools accountable for what he writes?

    • If law school product and bar exam – filtered individual has little concept of classical logic then how having good reference from those two institutions can be indicators of lawyer qualifications? Are they there to keep new Abraham Lincolns from coming through and surfs down? I suggest to free new lawyers from the bounds of fit-in institutions. Philip, why are you for keeping punishing new bright post-millennials with artificial seemingly non-indicative even of general intelligence barriers? The system to keep new bright lawyers down? 🙂

  4. As is my frequent habit, I’ll tell a story involving a lawyer. About ten years ago, my father was involved in a legal proceeding in our town that required the help of a lawyer. We decided to take a chance and hire a local attorney who lives in town, believing that 1) It’s good business to hire local as it helps the local economy and 2) As a longstanding resident of the town, this person would better understand the background and nuances of what was at issue in the case.

    Well, one day we had a big meeting at his house with all the people on our side of the case to discuss our strategy, the ins and outs of the law, and what contributions were needed from everyone. And of course, to discuss his fees. This particular attorney was, I thought, a fairly middle-of-the-road person politically, but that turned out to be wrong in the first 15 minutes as I discovered he was a big Bernie Sanders supporter (this was once we got inside his house, he didn’t have the bumperstickers on the cars, etc.)

    Anyway, I pointed it out to my Dad, who it could fairly be said is the Bernie Sanders Antiperson. He said: “It’s OK. We’ll give him a chance. He’s a good guy.”

    After three hours we were all haggling over various things. One key point is that this guy could not seem to act as an attorney who was ON OUR SIDE. He kept mentioning things like “Gray Areas” and “Fifty Shades of Truth” and “From Their Perspective.”

    Finally my father had enough and told him point blank: “If you’re not prepared to argue this case as forcefully as possible in my favor, we’re finished right now and I’m not going to pay you a penny.” There were several other people around the table with us who affirmed that statement for themselves as well.

    Long story short, that got him moving. We won the case hands down, it wasn’t even close.

    I ran into this fellow the other day at the local convenience store. As it so happens, people were discussing Elon Musk and Twitter. He viewed Musk’s takeover as an unmitigated catastrophe because Twitter would no longer be able to filter out things they had determined to be “untruthful.” He basically parroted Elizabeth Warren’s line about Musk+Twitter being a “Threat to our Democracy.”

    I looked at him and said: “You know, a decade ago, you spent three hours telling me about 50 Shades of Gray and now you’re telling me that Twitter should be the ultimate final arbiter of the TRUTH?”

    “Musk is a right-winger.”

    “Whew, what does that make me, a Thoughtcriminal? We paid you a lot of money to represent us a decade ago.”

    He had nothing more to say. He was getting angry. He paid for his stuff and stalked out of the store.

  5. A good start would be banning all politicians. They have devolved into performance artists, and performances are artificial by definition. The few wholesome ones we lose can be found elsewhere, and Twitter can be entertainment by real entertainers, or real-time news.

  6. I don’t think the photo.net policy would work for Twitter. The woke are very adept at “politely” ganging up on Reader A for years, until he finally attacks attacking Reader {B, C, …}. After which he is excommunicated.

    Here the policy works because there are individuals and no cliques. On Twitter the cliques will always win.

    You can see this in software projects. There is an increasing political class of corporate Twitter jockeys who use their silly one liners and virtue signaling to gain large numbers of followers. They take over the project and lord over the productive class of engineers, basically blackmailing them with reputational destruction if they disobey on social justice or technical (!) issues. At all times they present themselves as the indispensable members of the project.

    Because they are not really competent or productive, there is a tension between the work horses and the nomenklatura. What can a work horse without influence do? Expose the fact that the nomenklatura are corporate parasites who aren’t doing much. There is literally nothing else that scares the tyrants.

    In general, on Twitter dissenting individuals are destroyed and organizations with their rulers are protected. There must be a way to downrank bureaucrats and organizations and to allow speaking truth to power. And that speech needs to be quite direct at times.

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