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Culture War Roundup for the week of December 12, 2022

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So, how's that whole Elon free speech Twitter thing going? Turns out, not great. An article from Mike Masnick over at TechDirt has the details. Basically, back in November, shortly after Elon finished buying Twitter, he noted his belief in free speech was so strong it extended even to leaving up the Twitter account @elonjet. For those who don't know the @elonjet Twitter account used publicly available data to Tweet whenever Elon's private plane flew somewhere. Elon tweeted:

My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk

The man behind the account, Jack Sweeney, also operated a bunch of other plane tracker accounts for other billionaires (including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and various Russian oligarchs). As of today it seems the @elonjet Twitter account, along with all the other plane trackers and even Sweeney's personal account, have been suspended. Apparently this suspension is pursuant to a new Twitter rule about sharing personal information:

Under this policy, you can’t share the following types of private information, without the permission of the person who it belongs to:


live location information, including information shared on Twitter directly or links to 3rd-party URL(s) of travel routes, actual physical location, or other identifying information that would reveal a person’s location, regardless if this information is publicly available;

It took a whole month for Elon to craft a policy to ban the account he specifically said he wouldn't ban due to his commitment to free speech. So much for the idea that the limits of Twitter moderation would be anything like "only illegal speech." It also seems (according to the TechDirt article, and I tried this myself) that you can't even tweet links to @elonjet accounts on other platforms (like Facebook or Instagram). Amusingly Elon's original tweet from November now has a Community Note on it noting what the account that was being mentioned in the tweet was and the fact that it's banned.

Twitter files dump about the internal deliberations on how this policy change and these bans came about when?


Seems @elonjet was unsuspended. Apparently the new policy requires "slight" (no word on how long that is) delay before posting info. Although, at the time of this edit the account appears to be suspended again. Link.


Elon now claiming that legal action is being taken against Sweeney. Would love to hear what legal action he's alledgedly taking.

Even Elon Musk is a human - nobody holds their principles so highly that they won't discard them to safeguard their 2 year old child. To me, the real problem is the people who seem to think that they're exposing hypocrisy by trying to goad Elon into breaking his own rules. They're not.

I don't think it's so much an indictment of Elon as it is of the position of 'free speech absolutism'

Most people denouncing "absolutism" do it with the same goal as the infamous Holmes' "fire in the theater" quote - to justify infringement of freedoms going far, far beyond the corner case example they are using to demonstrate the un-viability of absolutism. They are not attacking "100%" to preserve "99%" - they are attacking "100%" to get it as close to 0% as they can. Holmes used it to ban people from speaking against forcibly sending people to war. Would we agree with that? Would we say "if Elon Musk values his privacy that much, then banning criticizing the government is ok too!"? I hope not. Thus, fighting "absolutism" is useless - and in many cases, under this guise what actually happens is the fight to take your rights.