This morning, Yoel Roth, the former head of Twitter’s “trust and safety” (or censorship) unit, offered these stunning words in The New York Times:
It’s not machine learning models and faceless algorithms behind key content moderation decisions: it’s people. And people can be pressured, intimidated, threatened and extorted.
Exactly, Yoel! I could not agree more. People can be pressured.
This is why the Biden administration should not have relentlessly demanded that social media companies delete users like me who raised questions about Covid vaccines. And it certainly shouldn’t have tied Section 230’s liability protection, which as you know is crucial to Twitter’s business (for better or worse) to this censorship.
(Hate censorship? Face it for 20 cents a day.)
You know who also agrees with you, Yoel?
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Ten days ago, three Fifth Circuit judges told the Biden administration to stop coercing Twitter and other social media companies. Direct threats are not always necessary, like judges pointed out in its ruling that endorses a preliminary precautionary measure against senior officials of the administration:
Officials have engaged in a broad lobbying campaign designed to coerce social media companies into deleting speakers, viewpoints and content disfavored by the government.
Thus, the judges restricted the actions of the officials
to significantly coerce or encourage social media companies to remove, remove, remove or reduce, including by modifying their algorithms, content posted on social media that contains protected free speech.
It sounds good for me! Among the current and former officials subject to the requirement? One Andy Slavitt, the former senior adviser to the Biden Administration’s Covid response team.
According to Twitter’s internal communications, in a 2021 meeting at the White House, Slavitt asked “a very difficult question about why Alex Berenson hasn’t been kicked off the platform.”
Hey, hey, Andy was just asking questions. (Can you get out of the car, sir? I really need you to get out. Can you do it for me?)
Now comes Yoel Roth, to explain that from his point of view, the pressure worked:
The success of a strategy aimed at forcing social media companies to reconsider their choices may not require a demonstration of actual wrongdoing… you may just need to “work the benchmarks” — repeatedly pressuring companies to think twice before taking actions that might cause a negative reaction.
(Hey, what’s up?)
Thanks for clearing that up, Yoel.
Except, wait for it, Yoel Roth isn’t worried about the pressure he’s facing left handed to suppress speech. In his piece, he complained of “lawsuits, congressional hearings and vicious online attacks.” Guess what and who they forgot to include in that litany?
Yes, the executive branch, the people in the White House who can in reality they change policy daily and have regulatory power over Twitter and its ilk. Maybe it’s because for the past three years, the White House has been run by Democrats.
In his piece, Yoel complains about conservative governments outside the United States who want censorship. But in the United States, where the left handed is in power, he is more concerned about Republican efforts avoid censorship
So maybe Yoel isn’t worried about censorship per se? Maybe he only cares when conservatives have the same opportunity to “work the referees” as liberals?
Because not even the left can argue that since taking office in January 2021, the Biden White House hasn’t been shy about telling social media companies exactly what it does and doesn’t want to listen.
Yes, in the end, Yoel’s motto seems to boil down to: Censorship for you, but not for me.
Still, I have to thank him for his words today. Yoel, you can be sure we’ll let the judge in Berenson v. Biden know exactly how you feel about the pressure Twitter has faced!