Elon Musk’s Twitter caves to Turkish demands of censorship

Let’s start with something basic: Freedom of expression is absolutely essential to democratic or republican government. The syllogism works like this. If you have a right to vote freely, you have a right to have as informed a choice as possible. In order to make such an informed choice, you have to be able to receive information freely, and if people cannot speak freely, you cannot receive information freely. Therefore, freedom of expression is absolutely essential to free elections. Frankly, by this metric, few world governments are truly democratic or republican.

Turkey is one of those countries that isn’t truly republic (as they claim) because they do not have free speech. For instance, Article 299 of their penal code literally punishes you for insulting the president of Turkey. That significantly impairs the ability of any opponent to actually challenge the incumbent (but it doesn’t limit incumbents), because it hems in how one can criticize the persons currently in power. After all, if that law was enacted in America, Donald Trump would have racked up probably 200 years in prison by now! And Joe Biden wouldn’t have been too far behind by the time he took office in 2020. And that is only scratching the surface of Turkish censorship.

With that in mind, we are nonetheless coming up on an election in Turkey this Sunday that promises to be close, despite the competition being hobbled by censorship:

And with that election looming, Twitter has caved to Turkish demands of censorship:

Taking them at face value, they are saying they have prevented certain accounts from being heard in Turkey. They are available in the rest of the world, but for some reason, people in Turkey are not allowed to see … whoever these people are and whatever they are saying. Twitter seems to be saying that some kind of legal process had been initiated and there was a belief that if they didn’t censor these people, then all of Twitter might have been prohibited. So, we can see what the people in Turkey are not allowed to see.

Of course, one person has a theory about how people in Turkey could get around this problem:

We have no idea if that would work.

Naturally, this got some pushback:

We should find out what exactly the people of Turkey are not allowed to see.

For making your country less democratic?

We don’t know if that would work, but censors tend to be dumb, so … maybe?

And of course, a great deal of it involved calling out Musk himself:

We have some sympathy for the difficult position Musk finds himself in. If we take Twitter at face value, it was either allow the entire platform to be censored, or censor a few voices. They might have also deduced that if Twitter was available in their country, that the messages might get through. Further, you might hope that the fact that Turkey was demanding censorship on the eve of the election might create something similar to the Streisand Effect, making people turn against Erdogan even more.

Still, we can’t help but think that the ideal answer would be to tell the government of Turkey to pound sand and then do something like offer free Starlink in the country, just to take a stand.

But Twitter might not be able to afford that, these days, in part because of the liberal campaign to degrade it, motivated by their own hostility to free speech. The ugly truth is tyrants don’t like free speech, and tyrants will not confine their censorship to their own borders. If they think they can use their economic power to censor the world—as China has—they will do it.

It’s not a cheerful thought, but it is the reality we deal with.

Update: via @filmladd, we discovered that we missed Musk’s response to Mr. Yglesias’ tweet above:

He also promised further transparency:

Still, we think the ideal response is to tell the world’s censors to pound sand.

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Texas delivers consequences to disruptive law school protesters

Regular readers of Twitchy know about how students at Stanford shouted down conservative Federal Judge Kyle Duncan and how students at Yale Law School did something similar to a panel on civil liberties (because irony is dead).

(Full disclosure: this author is an alumnus of Yale Law School and is embarrassed for these chuckleheads.)

Now it seems that the chickens might be coming home to roost in Texas.

In order to be licensed to practice law, Texas (like most states) requires a person to have good character—which in our experience is mainly a matter of not having anything in one’s record that shows poor character. And the State Bar of Texas has some bad news for disruptive protesters:

The text of the tweet cuts off but it says ‘ … who was subjected to vulgar heckling when he attempted to deliver prepared remarks.’

Kudos to Mr. Cruz for taking action.

Again, here’s the remaining text: ‘ … Nathan Hecht, the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, wrote on behalf of the bar examiners, who evaluate applications to the bar. ‘School reactions to recent violations of free-speech policies suggest that reliance is not justified.”

In other words, since Stanford wasn’t enforcing their own rules, the Bar needed to take up the slack.

The last sentence says ‘The admission process should examine whether applicants can be expected to fulfill this promise [of courtesy and civility].’

What do you think the chances are that the students who said this call themselves feminists?

To fill in the cut off text: ‘ … he plans to file bar complaints against the students who disrupted Duncan, some of whom, such as Denni Arnold, have been identified.’

Good for him. Seriously.

To fill in the cut off text: ‘ … not in compliance with accreditation standards that require it to promote free speech.’

This got some praise:

Mr. Randazza is a respected First Amendment Lawyer.

This.

We’ve lived there. As long as you have air conditioning, it’s a pretty nice state.

Of course, not everyone is pleased:

Free speech doesn’t mean that you can scream all the time and let no one else get a word in edgewise. The First Amendment does allow for neutral time, place and manner restrictions, including shutting everyone up so a speaker can actually speak, especially in classrooms and in court. And the State Bar of Texas can reasonably ask that if a person can’t let other people speak at school, will that person be equally disruptive in court?

(And the Bill of Attainder issue is too silly to bother with.)

Another person thought they had the perfect solution: lie!

Ironically, maybe the Bar is hoping for a few liars. This is pure speculation, but it is probably easier to justify excluding a person from the legal profession for lying about their incivility than it is for the incivility itself. So, maybe this is designed to be a proverbial ‘perjury trap’.

Aaron (Sibarium) defended Texas’ argument:

And the principle of civility is enforced in other contexts without any difficulty. For instance, the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism’s official twitter account posted this story called: ‘The True Cost of Incivility in the Legal Profession’.

That article discussed a New York case where a deposition was constantly interrupted by childish insults by opposing lawyers, leading a judge to sanction the lawyers by forcing them to pay over $68,000. They were also ‘mandated to attend a [legal class] on civility and provide the … instructor with a copy of the deposition transcript at issue so the instructor could use it in his seminar ‘as an example of uncivil sanctionable behavior.”

Ouch. To be a fly on the wall in that class …

And if we can go off on a rant, here … law schools are not serving their students well if they don’t constantly expose them to other points of view and if they don’t ensure that they know how to express disagreement with those persons logically and civilly. In court, you can’t just shout ‘that person is a transphobe!’ and expect to win most cases. And even if a lawyer doesn’t practice in litigation, your words and behavior is likely to be scrutinized and even the subject of legal action involving people who think in ways very different from your own. A good lawyer seeks to understand how other people think, how their arguments work, and (if necessary) to tear those arguments apart, civilly, using that knowledge. A lawyer educated in a cocoon, a lawyer who can’t even cope with disagreement, is a bad lawyer.

(Gets off soapbox.)

Of course, one person was confused about the whole issue:

Occupational hazard, we suppose.



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