Nouriel Roubini believes Elon Musk’s decision to buy Twitter was “a very bad idea” and he considers the Tesla CEO “a bit crazy” when it comes to regulating or not regulating speech on the social network.
The New York University economist, known as “Dr. Condemnation” for his pessimistic economic views — he predicted the 2008 housing bust and subsequent crisis — sees problems with Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist,” controlling a major social media platform.
“I think, frankly, the guy is a little bit crazy when it comes to these views of what is the proper regulation, I would say, of these platforms,” Roubini said in an interview with. Wealth. “There are some things that are inappropriate, and current Twitter does its best, not perfectly, to limit those things.”
Musk, in one note to advertisers on Oct. 27 — the day his $44 billion acquisition deal was finalized — said he bought Twitter to “try to help humanity, which I love,” and that he wants to turn the platform into a “square of digital commons of the city, where a range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy way, without resorting to violence.”
But Twitter saw a surge in racial slurs and anti-Semitic comments shortly after Musk took over, prompting complaints by NBA star LeBron James and other big names.
Roubini noted that “many anti-Semites, racists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis are spreading disinformation fed by Russia, China, Iran, North Korea to try to destroy our liberal democracy. And now [Musk is] saying, ‘I want all these people to be allowed to have a platform and spread this misinformation.’
Musk, in response to the increase in N-word use on Twitter following his acquisition, pointed out an employee’s explanation that “almost all these accounts are inauthentic. We have taken action to ban the users involved in this trolling campaign – and will continue to work to address this in the coming days to make Twitter safe and welcoming for everyone.”
He was also quick to reassure advertisers, in his Oct. 27 note, that Twitter would not become a “free speech for all,” adding that the company would form a content moderation council “with very diverse perspectives ” and that “without major content decisions or account resets will occur before that council convenes.”
But some big companies are already leaving the platform. General Motors, Pfizer, Volkswagen and others have stopped advertising on the social network.
until insisting that Twitter will not become a place “where anything can be said without consequence”, Musk has indicated that users will have more freedom to say what they want, however offensive or misleading, than they had before. And he harshly criticized the company’s former leaders – some of whom he immediately fired – for being too strict and oppressive.
“By ‘free speech,’ I simply mean that which complies with the law,” he tweeted in April. “I am against censorship that goes beyond the law.”
Roubini said Musk would, in principle, allow “any form [of] ‘free word’.” But, he said, “there is a limit to the freedom of speech. You are not allowed to go dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan in front of a Jewish or African-American family with guns threatening them. This is not acceptable. You want to demonstrate, you are allowed to demonstrate, but not to physically threaten other individuals in our society. So freedom of speech is not unlimited.”
Shortly after taking over the platform, Musk hinted at how he might address the risk of Twitter becoming too toxic for some users. He suggested that, just as moviegoers use maturity ratings to decide which movies to watch, Twitter users can choose their own levels of content moderation.
At the heart of the case is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (passed in 1996), which protects Internet platforms from liability for content posted by third parties.
Roubini opposes the legislation and believes it should be modified.
“We’re going to have to rethink that particular section in a way that doesn’t eliminate some of the protections,” he said, “but doesn’t provide protections to the extent that we have today, which basically allows any kind of … despicable, criminal messages , violent, threatening to broadcast. This is not acceptable in any civil society, period.”
Twitter didn’t come back wealthRequest for comment.
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