The United States government has demanded that Twitter turn over the records of the accounts that they deem to be “anti trump”. Twitter is pushing back and using the First Amendment as its reason. Not only is Twitter pushing back, but they are also suing the U.S. Government. In the lawsuit, Twitter is quoted as saying:
“The rights of free speech afforded Twitter’s users and Twitter itself under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution include a right to disseminate such anonymous or pseudonymous political speech.” Twitter is also saying that there is no legal reason for them to hand over the information to the government.
Which begs the question – are you in favour of anonymous speech? More specifically when it’s political? I’d like to start off by saying that I dislike the idea of “internet trolls”. I don’t condone hate speech. I think it’s deplorable. If you need to stand behind anonymity to get your message across, there is a bigger issue. Perhaps, though, if we turn this around and look at it from a political perspective only. Does that make anonymous speech ok?
I’m not sure that I agree with the idea of being able to hide behind anonymity. I guess my reason is because I think we should live in a world where we aren’t afraid to say how we feel. And subsequently we shouldn’t be punished because of how we feel. Yes, I’m currently wearing my rose coloured glasses. We don’t live in that world, unfortunately. However, I’d like to think that if someone didn’t agree with what I had to say, they would calmly talk to me about it. My hope is that they wouldn’t put me down or belittle me for my opinion.
But the argument could also be made that by hiding behind anonymity, we are seeing people’s true voices. And in some cases, those are “good” voices. What Twitter is doing, though, is going to bat for free speech. Period. Full stop. They aren’t identifying speech in one way or another. They are simply saying – everyone who uses this platform has the right to voice their opinions without reprisal. Obviously there are some exceptions to that. Like hate speech etc.
And I like the way that they’re thinking. How can they, as a communication tool used around the world by millions be expected to not defend free speech. Further, if the U.S. government gets their way with this, how many other organizations are going to want the accounts of people that don’t agree with them? What would this do to politics? My mind is starting to explode as I think about this.
If you have a politician that is not well liked. I’m not naming names here. How can you allow said politician to have access to the names and contact information of the people who are speaking out against them? That’s literally asking for many lawsuits. And what kind of world would we be living in if we were able to sue every person who had a different opinion about ourselves. Oh, wait….
So how can this be managed? I don’t necessarily think it can. Especially if the people who are “anti Trump” in these cases aren’t saying anything that could be considered criminal. Further, we are all entitled to our own opinions. Trump included. Regardless of whether we agree with them, or believe in his messaging. It’s a part of the modern world.
Unfortunately this is either going to end bad for free speech, or someone is going to have egg on their face. One outcome is certainly a win, but this isn’t the end of it. We will continue to see these types of “demands” for the entire time Trump is President. I go back to a previous analogy that I made about Trump. He’s the bully picking on other kids in the school yard in an attempt to see what kind of attention he can get.