Ever since Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, a new debate has ignited. The debate has been around the Freedom of Expression. The argument centers around whether it is fair to suppress the voice of one section of Society or should the practical consequences of an absolute Freedom of speech should be considered.
Now, Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) has proposed two new codes centered around what would effectively be the censorship of Social Media firms. MCI has stated that the proposed codes are to curb the recent rise in harmful content online that included sexually explicit, religiously disruptive and socially intolerant content.
The first code proposes System-wide processes for social media companies with big reach. This includes appropriate focus to respect the Community standards and content moderation. The second code gives Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the right to censor harmful contents perpetuating online.
The first code is a much needed move. There should be a mechanism where users can point out intrinsically violent and hateful content. However, the second code is a bit problematic.
The reason behind the problematic nature is not in its conception but in its implementation. The move to block harmful content soon becomes an excuse to curb down the opposing Political voice. We have seen this worldwide, with major political rivals being shut down by removal of online posts or the suspension of the entire account.
Still, it can’t be ignored that a filtering mechanism is needed in the online space. It cannot be the case that anyone posts anything without keeping in mind the Community Standards in place. That is what the debate about the whole ‘Freedom of Speech’ is all about.
Twitter’s future work could be an interesting Case Study in that debate. With Elon’s acquisition, the social media company would likely take a Free Speech Absolutism path. The working and the results of Twitter would provide us with appropriate data to take the issue of ‘Freedom of Speech’ in a more comprehensive way.