Woke former head of Trust and Safety at Twitter, Yoel Roth, left the company, then Twitter, and now is pontificating about how satire is a danger to democracy. Roth made the remarks at the Knight Foundation's "Informed: Conversations on Democracy in the Digital Age" at the end of November, after his time with Twitter had come to an end.
"Okay, Babylon Bee," moderator Kara Swisher posed to Roth, "which is what got him to buy the thing, I think. That's the one which is, which was not particularly funny. 'The Babylon Bee's Man of the Year is Rachel Levine.' Not funny. I didn't agree that they should have taken that down. But go ahead."
In the spring, the Babylon Bee had been declared by Twitter to be in violation of their "hateful conduct" policies for sharing a satirical article awarding Biden's transgender diversity hire, assistant Secretary to the Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Rachel Levine, a "man of the year" award. This was in response to Time Magazine naming Levine "woman of the year."
The satire account was locked out of Twitter pending their voluntary deletion of the tweet. Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dylan refused to comply. The violation was to the terms of Twitter's hateful conduct policy, which reads that users "may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease."
It was after the Bee's very public, and controversial ban that Musk bought enough Twitter shares to become a majority owner, and shortly afterward, Musk made his $44 billion proposal to buy the entire platform. In the fall, Musk freed the Bee from Twitter jail.
"You know, it's interesting," Roth replied to Swisher. "It's interesting to think about what the competing tensions around that are. And I want to start by acknowledging that the targeting and the victimization of the trans community on Twitter is very real, very life threatening and extraordinarily serious."
This concept from Roth that words are violence is one traveling like wildfire through liberal circles. The idea is that if anyone says anything offensive, that could encourage others to do mean things. This has been called "stochastic terrorism," and the goal of this kind of accusation is to suppress free speech.
"We have seen from a number of Twitter accounts, including Libs of TikTok, notably, that there are orchestrated campaigns that particularly are singling out a group that is already particularly vulnerable within society," Roth said.
"And so yeah, not only is it not funny, but it is dangerous, and it does contribute to an environment that makes people unsafe in the world. So let's start from the premise that it's f*cked up," he continued.
This is a similar perspective of that of Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz, who believes that Twitter's new free speech orientation is so dangerous that the app should not even be available to consumers via Google or Apple app stores.
For Lorenz, allowing The Babylon Bee and Libs of TikTok, which has been locked or suspended 8 times, on the platform will result in the "targeting" of "public health officials, election officials, journalists and teachers."
Roth has a similar view. "Let's look at what Twitter's written policies are," Roth told Swisher. "Twitter's written policies prohibit misgendering— full stop, and the Babylon be in the name of satire. misgendered Admiral Rachel Levine."
"Satire," Swisher said.
"Nominally, but it's still misgendering," Roth replied. The very concept of misgendering, however, is a political perspective. To believe that someone can be "misgendered" is to believe that biolgical sex is not innate but mutable and able to be changed with a combination of whim and medical technology.
Applying rules prohibiting misgendered is to apply rules according to a specific ideology that does not acknowledge the binary nature of biological sex. For those who refuse to comply, being punished for misgendered is the same as being punished for stating that sex is real. Being forced to "gender" according to gender ideology is compelled speech.
For Roth, however, there can be no dissent with his political and philosophical view. "And, you know, you can, there can be a very long and academic discussion of satire and sort of the lines there. Interestingly, Apple tried to tease out this question of satire and political commentary and their own guidelines, which I think are also fraught, but you know, we landed on the side of enforcing our rules as written," he said.
"And that's how it got bought by Elon Musk," Swisher said, "just in case you're interested. He was mad about that. I remember that."
The Knight Foundation claims that they held the event on the premise that "Internet technologies have brought unprecedented social advantages and helped democratize access to information and ideas. However, in recent years, these same technologies have also been exploited to mislead, disenfranchise, and undermine democracy. As the internet continues to evolve, the challenges to an informed citizenry are likely to intensify in years to come. INFORMED will be a critical forum to explore these challenges and viable solutions."
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