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Former Clinton Official Decries Elon Musk’s Vision of Free Speech as the Vision of Dictators

Can people be conditioned to believe that the ability to express themselves is against their personal preferences? Can they be convinced that liberty is a sinister torment? The idea was discussed in a write-up in the April 12 issue of the Guardian.

Most people are aware that Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk plans to acquire Twitter. From all indications, his vision for proper free-speech limitations is quite different from the current restrictions. In simple terms, when it comes to free speech, billionaires are for it. But while this kind of sentiment was once commonplace in America, the country appears to have witnessed a shift.

A case in point: a piece written by University of California Professor (and Clinton Secretary of Labor) Robert Reich. “Years ago,” he writes, “pundits assumed the internet would open a new era of democracy, giving everyone access to the truth.” According to the professor's opinion, this was never the case. Dictators such as Putin and demagogues such as Trump have shown how ignorant this idea was. But at least the president was punted, and the U.S. has reacted to Trump's falsehoods. Trump had around 88 million Twitter followers prior to Twitter removing him from the platform two days following the attack on the Capitol that he provoked partly through his tweets. The expulsion was “necessary to protect American democracy,” according to Reich. In the case of Elon Musk, a man who has been a part of his life, he's told “his 80 million followers all sorts of things” and has also criticized Big Tech as “the de facto arbiter of free speech.”

To listen to Robert Reich tell the story, the Tesla man is a rogue: Musk believes in freedom of speech; however, in reality, it's all about the power of his position. According to Reich, if Elon is able to acquire Twitter, it is possible that he will play with fire: Will Musk leverage his influence to allow Trump to come back? Robert is afraid he will.

Additionally, the Clinton-era official claims that lauded online liberty isn't secure. Musk has long argued for the libertarian view of the “uncontrolled” internet. This vision is a dangerous, flimsy idea. There isn't a creature like that and never has been.

“Someone has to decide on the algorithms in every platform,” Musk stated, “how they're designed, how they evolve, and what the algorithms reveal, and then what they conceal.” Musk has the power and money to give himself this degree of influence over Twitter.

In discussions of these thoughts, Robert Reich is a fan but not without limits. Musk has always believed that the power of his tweets comes with accountability. But in his lengthy and long-running experience with Twitter, Musk has threatened journalists and posted a number of reckless tweets.

In an eloquent way, Musk declares that he would like to “free” the internet. What he's really trying to achieve is making it less accountable than it currently is, whereby it would be almost impossible to discover who is infiltrating social media with false information and contaminating minds with pseudoscience or propaganda and deciding which versions of events become viral and which remain hidden.

In a relatively short period of time, America has traveled far. Before, “poisoning our minds with pseudo-science and propaganda” through the use of unfettered speech was a thing that could happen in any space in America. All were entitled to express their opinions however they wanted, whether right or wrong, good or bad. As a result, everybody else had the same right to say what they wanted. This was how debate was conducted.

Now that the nation's discussion “room” is largely online, citizens have been shut out in a variety of ways.

Regarding the question “Could people be made to believe their ability to speak is against their own interest?” Perhaps some clues are in the following headlines: “The Rebellion isn't the same as it used to be: College Students Demonstrate Their Freedom to Dismantle,” “Professor is worried about what unmasking could mean: ‘Freedom',” “College Students Join a ‘Die-In’ to Protest Their Freedom to Unmask.”

Whatever the case, Robert Reich warns against “a brave new world.” Concerning Musk's idea of Twitter and the web, he'd be the one who could see the magic, the one who lurks behind the scenes. In reality, the world would be ruled by the wealthiest and most powerful people around the globe who would not be accountable to anyone else for the truth or science or general good. That's Musk's dream. And Trump's. And Putin's. The dream of every dictator, strongman, demagogue, and the modern-day robber baron of Earth. 

For the rest of us, it's an exciting new nightmare. Are you ready to face the freedom of choice? Some evidently aren't.

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