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  • By The Financial District

Musk's Free Speech Absolutism A Fantasy, Critics Argue

The limits of Elon Musk's self-professed "free speech absolutism" were laid bare, critics said, when he banned rapper Kanye West from Twitter over his latest anti-Semitic outburst.


Photo Insert: Musk's claim to be a free speech absolutist was always going to clash with reality -- and particularly the clash with West, who has mounted a vociferous campaign of anti-Semitic outbursts.



A few days earlier, Musk tweeted that he was engaged in "a battle for the future of civilization.


If free speech is (sic) lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead." Since taking over Twitter, he has reinstated controversial figures, including ex-president Donald Trump, who was banned for inciting violence with his false claims about fraud after losing in the 2020 US election.



Musk's claim to be a free speech absolutist was always going to clash with reality -- and particularly the clash with West, who has mounted a vociferous campaign of anti-Semitic outbursts. The final straw for Musk was West's tweet showing a Nazi swastika interlaced with a Star of David.


It followed an interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, in which he declared his "love" of the Nazis and admiration for Adolf Hitler.


All the news: Business man in suit and tie smiling and reading a newspaper near the financial district.

"The problem is that Elon Musk has a half-baked free speech philosophy," said Jacob Mchangama, author of Free Speech: A History From Socrates to Social Media.


"Sometimes he talks about total freedom of speech, sometimes about respecting the law. But, of course, laws are very different around the world where Twitter is present. Some of the things (West) has said would arguably be punishable in court in Europe, especially in France."


Business: Business men in suite and tie in a work meeting in the office located in the financial district.

Few believe that total freedom of speech is possible, especially for a private platform that relies on advertising. "So-called free speech absolutism is just a fantasy," said influential podcaster Sam Harris earlier this week on his "Making Sense" show.


"Almost no one really holds that position even when they espouse it." He said some level of content moderation was needed to stop platforms from turning into "a digital sewer."



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