Twitter Shouldn’t Tell Us Who to Trust

Jack Dorsey, chief executive officer of Twitter Inc. and Square Inc., sits for a photograph following an Empowering Entrepreneurs event at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. Dorsey said he hopes the companies he co-founded won't be tethered to their headquarters in San Francisco. Photographer: Cole Burston/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Cole Burston/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In many ways, scrolling through social media is like wading across a knee-deep river. Neither activity possesses inherent danger, but your success (and/or enjoyment of the process) depends entirely on your ability to pay attention. While rivers have opposite banks which represent an end to their traversal, social media is — quite literally — an endless stream with no “riverbank” in sight.

If social media is a river, then content is the water that fills it. News, updates, images, quotes, captions, memes, all of the above. In the raging battle for our attention, the more content the better. In order to satisfy this limitless demand, social media turned its users into creators. What was once our gift — “anyone can say what they want!” — has now become our curse — “anyone can say what they want!” Or, to push this potamological metaphor one step further, it’s like we’re actively flooding the very same river we’re desperately trying to cross.

This dynamic has created a situation where anyone, anywhere can say anything, anytime — to the point where we’re drowning in information. Some of this information is true, and some is not, and on the subject of whether accuracy should be their primary concern, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seem to diverge.

Recently, Twitter has received significant criticism for their censorship of a New York Post article regarding Hunter Biden. While such censorship is receiving an understandable level of attention, it’s important to remember that this is just one in a series of similar events. In a supposed effort to promote “transparency,” Twitter has begun labeling tweets with “potentially misleading information,” they mark Twitter accounts that are run by politicians, and most recently, they have taken additional steps ahead of the 2020 election, including “adding more context.”

Many people, however, see these actions as an attempt to muzzle certain voices. Ironically, one of Dorsey’s social media rivals offers a different perspective. When asked about a fact check label added to one of Donald Trump’s tweets last spring, Zuckerberg responded by saying, “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.”

These two positions present a fundamental distinction — the difference between truth and facts, a phrase which seems counterintuitive and almost oxymoronic. Shouldn’t all facts be true, and shouldn’t the truth be a fact? Ideally, yes, but in our age of rampant media-controlled agendas, we are forced to split these particular hairs.

The problem arises when social media platforms decide that they will determine which “facts” are credible, instead of leaving such a subjective decision to the individual users of their products. However, even if we are willing to grant them that responsibility, surely we should at least know who is doing the fact-checking? Twitter disagrees.

In an interview, Twitter representatives said they work with “trusted partners to identify content that is likely to result in offline harm.” Sounds great. Who? They refuse to say, but on one page users are often directed to is Politifact, a site that is listed as left-leaning by AllSides, an organization which rates news media for bias.

But look, this isn’t Politifact’s fault, nor is it Twitter’s. Everyone has a bias, so to expect the media to suddenly level the playing field is naïve. Instead, we should demand the return of our autonomy. We should be allowed to decide for ourselves what is credible and what is not. After all, the moment someone else can define and re-define what others must see as true, everything — including the definition of “facts” — is up for debate.

This isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s an identity crisis. Twitter has to decide whether they want to remain a platform — a neutral public forum where users express their right to free speech — or become a publisher — an entity that monitors, controls, and edits any content up for publication. As Twitter walks this fine line, they will quickly find that it’s impossible to be both.

Sometimes, you have to defend bad ideas to create a space where good ideas can be heard. In an effort to remove any misleading information, Twitter has set itself up as the gatekeeper of truth. But before we blame them for consolidating power, we can’t ignore who put them in this position in the first place. Let’s not stand in the middle of the stream and wonder what happened. We got our feet wet and now we’re here…by choice. 

Will Twitter remain an unbiased platform and allow users to decide what’s true and what’s not? Will people grow frustrated with censorship and choose another avenue to express their thoughts, ideas, and feelings? Or will Twitter continue to go down the unobstructed path of biased censorship expecting its users to blindly follow?

Ultimately, that’s up to us.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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