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tv   Washington Journal Shira Ovide  CSPAN  May 1, 2022 1:51am-2:19am EDT

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immigration policies. and, u.s. and nato efforts to support ukraine during the current invasion by russian forces. watch live at 7:00 eastern sunday morning on c-span or c-span now, our new mobile app. join the conversation with your phone calls, facebook comments, text messages and tweets. g shira ovide joins me. she is the columnist for the on tech news later. host: you wrote an article for the new york times, the headline is "why everybody wants to buy twitter." what is the answer to that? caller: it is a can vamping property.
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it is enormously influential among politicians, among the news media, among corporations. on the other hand, twitter has been an under performer in every possible way. its user base is 1/10 of the users of facebook. twitter has relatively small revenues, it is smaller than the revenues of bed, bath and beyond. it has struggled its career with questions about the balance of expressions and creating a place where people feel like they can have a say and feel free. host: we will take call from viewers. republicans can call (202) 748-8001, democrats can call (202) 748-8000 and independents
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(202) 748-8002 can call. what is the timeline for the sale? guest: in theory, three to six months where the lawyers cross all the teas and after those months, elon musk will be the owner. host: what is the immediate impact he will have on twitter? guest: i will have to be honest in saying that no one really knows. i know that we will talk about it this morning. the reality is that he has said relatively little about how he may change twitter. he has given some brought ideas. what he has said is that he wants there to be room for
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people to say whatever they want on twitter within the balance of the law. he has talked about things like doing more to stamp out automated accounts that furiously tweet hard-core things that people like profanity. you will auto -- get these automated replies. he has talked about that. he has talked about open sourcing twitter's algorithm which is what they use to organize the tweets that you see. those are the kinds of things that he has talked about in broad strokes. but again, how that vision meets reality is going to be hard to
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know. host: let's talk about what he has said about free speech and he of course tweeted about this. let's take a look at is tweet from elon musk it says "by free speech i say that which matches the law. i go against censorship. if they want less free speech they will ask government to make laws to that effect. going against free speech is contrary to the will of the people." what if free speech contains misinformation, disinformation, where do we think he is going to land on that? guest: we don't really know, he has not yet confronted those questions. everybody thinks free speech is an important concept. the question that anybody can
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say anything as long it is legal. what do you do about things like profanity and pornography. those are the legal but many social media properties including twitter, trumps social network, they don't allow it. they severely restrict profanity and prone auger fee. --pornography. most users, they are outside of the united states. what if a government in turkey, these tweets from people who disagree with the government, they are illegal under turkish law but people who believe in freedom of expression, that
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government is trying to use the law to suppress speech. what does twitter do in those kind of circumstances? that happens every day. just recently and the last day or so there was a columnist from a chinese property that complained it was being censored on twitter. but twitter says it was state owned media. this person believes that it is a suppression of their rights. it is a complicated question that are not answered that as long it is legal it is insured.
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has elon musk said anything about lifting the ban on president trump? guest: he has not said that publicly. he would probably be willing or eager to let trump have his account back. many of the people that i have talked to that are not free speech absolutist, but believe in the free balance of expression, they also believe that social media companies made a mistake by removing president trump permanently after january 6. if elon musk allows trump to have his account back, the people will be supportive of
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that move as well. host: one last tweet from elon musk, "twitter must be neutral, upsetting the far right and far left equally." we want to know what you think. anthony is up first from new york on the democrats line. caller: thank you for the opportunity. i have made this request to c-span in the past. there has been a whistle blower named michael klein in 2002. the lawsuit has been in court for several years and then barack obama was to grant immunity to the telecom sector
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for cooperating with surveillance. it is unconstitutional. they used arbitrary state secrets rights. host: what does this have to do with twitter? caller: twitter has aligned itself with the government to undermine the constitution. the constitution trumps all of what they are doing now. it is unconstitutional and illegal. edward snowden has been guest on c-span. host: let's get a response. guest: his general question about the relationship between free speech and the government, the reality is there are a handful of american tech companies that have a norman sway over these powerful tools
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-- enormous sway over these powerful tools. the people that make these decisions in these companies are not accountable to the public. i think those are understandable questions about the constitution and the bill of rights as a restraint on government power. it does not say much about the power of corporations. there are open questions about what do we do when we are in an environment where big companies have this kind of power that may be akin to government power but not the accountability of government. host: let's talk to troy from georgia on the independent line. caller: i noticed when trump was running for election, and this
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is what reminded me of elon musk. how twitter has come under the microscopic. he was able to tweet and drown out conventional media. i think he had 22 million followers and i don't believe any cable venue at that time had that kind of a following. in my mind that put twitter on the radar. and i want to know what you think about that? caller: it is true, trump made twitter -- put much more
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attention on twitter than it had before. he is not the only reason that twitter is an influential means of communication. the same way that twitter used -- trump has used twitter to bypass media. in the arab spring protest, people organized against what they saw authoritarian governments they used twitter and facebook and used social media in ways that they could not do in a previous era. it gives people a way to have a voice without getting permission. it is also true that trump put much more of a spotlight on twitter and gave it more
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relevance in a way that twitter did not like because it brought all these questions about whether twitter is responsible for the things that he says. host: let's talk to mike from pennsylvania next. caller: my issue isn't just with twitter it is with social media and general. ever since this more liberal leaning government system took office, there has been more censorship on all social media. twitter, facebook, you name it. host: what do you think? guest: i have not seen credible
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research on this. it is true that there has been an evolution over the past 10 years, over the past five years, a rethinking about what had been a free speech absolutist position. those principles are valuable. as these companies grew more influential, as they went global, they were confronted with these challenges. what does it mean when people use speech to suppress other speech or to do harm. an example, myanmar used facebook messages to denigrate the minority in that country and those sorts of actions, that use of facebook to propagate
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genocide against the muslim population in that country. these companies on their own have made these decisions to put more rules around what people can say to ensure they are not drowned out by spam or chinese state propaganda and also to counteract some real-world harms where speech is used as a tool to suppress other speech. host: press secretary jen psaki was asked about the sale. "the president has long been concerned about large social media platforms. the power they have over every
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day lives. the platform needs to be held accountable for the harm they cause. there needs to be fundamental reforms, antitrust reforms for more transparency and there is bipartisan support in congress." what do you think, where our lawmakers on this? agree, disagree, supportive? guest: it is all over the map. the interesting thing i hear from that statement, everybody including people who run social media companies agree they have too much power. where the disagreement lies is what to do about it. it is a very challenging question. on the question of politicians
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in washington's have reacted to this deal. conservative politicians, republicans who want elon musk and want less moderation on twitter and believe musk will issue in this new twitter where there will be less moderation. there are other people who are worried about big tech companies having a lot of power. i don't think elon musk changes that. it is just swapping one billionaire owner for another powerful management team at twitter. host: let's talk to susan from
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virginia on the democrats line. caller: could you speak to the subtle issues aside from the free-speech issue, marjorie taylor greene and the problem she had. a lot of people depend on twitter for all of their news. their worry is more than elon musk. it is the population of people that believe outright falsehoods. can you talk about that a little bit? guest: i didn't hear the entirety of the question but i got the gist. this is a challenge not only for social media companies but for
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the world where what do you do in an age where everything, including truths is doubted. i think this is a challenging time for the united states and people in other countries where there is so much division and disagreement and you don't complicate the matters when you have these tools of influence that have different mechanisms than we have seen before. these are new companies, twitter is 16 years old and we are in this environment where our
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american ideology is being altered by fall speech. what you do when these software algorithms make viral information that might be untrue but interesting. we know that lies can spread more quickly than facts and undermines that facts can be the curative's for lies. what can we believe and how do we win this one? --
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there is a law that dates from the 90's that people say is the bedrock of the internet and it says that internet companies that operate on mind. it gives them some immunity for moderating their platforms without being legally responsible for what people say. an example, if i say something on facebook you consume me but not facebook. there are advocates of this law saying that without it, you could delete posts that are obviously inflammatory, spam,
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obvious harassment, profanity. the people who believe in that law say that it gives it away for the internet to exist. host: let's talk to gary on the internet line. caller: i am scared about these billionaires owning these companies. they don't seem to realize that they are above the regular guy on the street he was struggling to survive and make ends meet. the disinformation that is putting out there, people are soaking it up like a sponge and spitting it out in the community.
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that 44 billion dollars could have fed the world. he could have taken that money and given it to food banks were given it to aid societies. there are people starving all over the world. do something more important than sending rockets up in the universe. host: let's get a response. guest: i understand where he is coming from. there is a question for people with enormous wealth, how are they using it? i don't speak for elon musk, if he were answering that question he would say that the companies that he runs including tesla and spacex, they have done an enormous amount of good for the world even if they are not charitable organizations. electrifying our transportation
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system will be important to fight climate change and achieve these other goals for the world. space travel has been important for the u.s. and other governments goals in space. i imagine that is how elon musk would answer that question. he serves the world not through charitable donations but
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