WSJ Op-Ed Urges Changes to Twitter Content Moderation

WSJ Op-Ed Urges Changes to Twitter Content Moderation

NEW YORK — The Wall Street Journal published today an op-ed by two conservative intellectuals providing a road map to alter Twitter moderation, including customized filters for “porn, racial slurs and spam.”

The editorial, titled “How Elon Musk Can Liberate Twitter,” was penned for the Rupert Murdoch-owned financial newspaper by entrepreneur and writer Vivek Ramaswamy and Yale law professor Jeb Rubenfeld.

Ramaswamy and Rubenfeld kick off their editorial by asserting that even though prospective Twitter buyer Elon Musk may want Twitter to “adhere to free speech principles,” that is “easier said than done” because “porn, racial slurs and spam are all protected under the First Amendment, but few users want to see them.”

The first step to solving moderation conundrums, Ramaswamy and Rubenfeld state, “is to recognize that different free-speech principles apply in different contexts, and there are three key different kinds of forums: public forums, limited public forums and private property.”

Twitter, the authors argue, isn’t a public forum, “most obviously because it isn’t run by the government (even though its censorship is sometimes at official behest).”

The authors argue that Twitter needs to be understood in a grey-area category between public and private, which they call a “limited public forum” and define as “places generally open to the public where speech can be subjected to reasonable regulation.”

“One kind of restriction, however, is forbidden: viewpoint discrimination,” they claim, and “that’s how Mr. Musk should think of Twitter.”

Ramaswamy and Rubenfeld use the concept of “viewpoint discrimination” to carve out a distinction between content they think should not be subject to moderation, and other content that is somehow inherently not “a viewpoint.”

Stopping Twitter from “[smuggling] viewpoint discrimination into supposedly neutral content-moderation categories — primarily misinformation, incitement and hate speech,” Ramswamy and Rubenfeld tell Wall Street Journal readers, “should be Mr. Musk’s first priority.”

Among “viewpoint” categories Ramswamy and Rubenfeld believe should be protected are “conservative opinions about transgenderism,” “conservative views on COVID,” former President Trump’s “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” tweet, claims that the Democrats stole the presidency in 2020 and “the truthful Hunter Biden laptop story.”

The 'Opt-In Button'

The authors also insist that “bans on ‘hate speech’ would have to end,” and also that racist and sexist speech should be tolerated because it “expresses an opinion, however odious, and banning opinions is the essence of viewpoint discrimination.”

Racial slurs, however, can be curtailed by having Musk “change the paradigm for content moderation,” they argue, and allowing users to “decide for themselves” by offering “simple opt-in buttons.”

“Mr. Musk,” they write, “could keep in place all of Twitter’s offensive-speech protocols, but give every user the ability to opt in or out of them. If a user doesn’t want to see hate speech, there’s no reason he should have to. The same goes for constitutionally protected sexually explicit material.”

A more ambitious option, they continue, “would be to harness artificial intelligence and develop an individualized filtering mode. Each user would decide for himself whether to remove certain posts, and an AI algorithm would learn from his choices, creating a personalized filter. If Michael flags racial epithets or Laura deletes certain images, Twitter’s algorithms would be trained not to show them such epithets in future.”

In conclusion, they urge Musk to “conceive Twitter as a limited public forum, stop censoring viewpoints, and promote user choice over centralized content moderation.”

Ramaswamy is the author of “Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam” and “Nation of Victims: Identity Politics, the Death of Merit, and the Path Back to Excellence."

Rubenfeld, an influential mentor who aided several prominent judicial careers by placing students in high-profile clerkships, was suspended from Yale Law School in 2020 for two years after after a Title IX investigation into sexual harassment claims from multiple former students.

A 2021 Wall Street Journal op-ed by both writers urged politicians to “Save the Constitution From Big Tech” and alleged that “American democracy is under siege from Silicon Valley’s political plutocracy.”

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