Elon Musk and the battle for control of the internet

All of this has nothing to do with countering disinformation. It is not about standing up to ‘hate’. No, these elites want to protect their ideologies from the queries and criticisms of the apparently ill-informed rabble. This is an attempted forcefielding of ruling-class belief systems from free inquiry and criticism. Consider the two ideas that were flagged up in that open letter as potentially being at threat from Musk’s transformation of Twitter into a ‘cesspool of misinformation’. Musk’s ‘free speech’ – they actually use scare quotes – could undermine Twitter’s ‘climate commitments’ and its ‘protections for transgender people’, the letter says. In short, if we have freedom of speech then there might be more questioning of climate-change alarmism and of the hocus-pocus idea that a man can become a woman and that biology is BS. Both the climate-change scare and the trans ideology are central to the worldview of the new ruling classes, the former embodying their desire to control and temper the economic aspirations of mankind and the latter confirming their embrace of hyper-relativism and their turn against such ‘outdated’ ideas as the sex divide and the importance of family life. And they really cannot believe that us online plebs might be permitted to interrogate such regressive claims if Musk makes Twitter a little more intellectually open.

This isn’t about believing that Musk is the Robin Hood of free speech that we’ve all been waiting for. No one should be that naive. However, we should all be concerned about the Muskphobia of the global elites. It confirms how determined they are to continue enjoying ideological dominion over the social wing of the internet and how jealously they will guard their beliefs from the barbs and pricks of the little people. ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’, written by John Perry Barlow in 1996, issued a warning to ‘the governments of the industrial world’. You ‘weary giants of flesh and steel’ have ‘no sovereignty where we gather’, it said. You cannot control ‘the virus of liberty’, it insisted. How things have changed. Twenty-six years later the flesh-and-steel authorities have firmly reasserted their censorious power over the World Wide Web, under the dishonest banners of countering hate, tackling disinformation and keeping people safe. No thanks. Give me the hazards of free speech over the phoney comfort of thought control any day of the week. Musk’s mildly freed-up Twitter might be a very small step towards the dream of internet freedom, but even baby steps are to be welcomed in these authoritarian times.

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