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Analysis | Kanye’s anti-Semitic tweet could be a taste of the future of social media

Rapper Ye, formerly Kanye West, sent an Instagram post on Friday introducing fellow musician Sean “Diddy” Combs. was controlled by Jewish people – a common anti-Semitic figure of speech. Within hours, Instagram had deleted the message and locked his account.

Ye sent that to Twitter, where he was public welcome back by Elon Musk, who may soon become owners of the company. Within hours, however, Ye had posted a separate anti-Semitic tweet that he was going “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE”. Twitter, like Instagram, quickly blocked the post and blocked his account.

But a conservative-led movement to curb what some see as “censorship” by the Silicon Valley giants is poised to change the way they approach such decisions. Between a growing field of state laws trying to restrict content moderation and Elon Musk’s determination to relax Twitter policies, posts like Ye’s could soon be more frequent online.

A law passed by Texas last year, which could become a model for other Republican-led states if enforced by the courts, bans major online platforms from censoring users or limiting their posts based on the political views they hold. express. Legal experts told The Washington Post that such laws would make it much more risky for social media companies like Meta, which owns Instagram, and Twitter to even blatantly moderate anti-Semitic posts like Ye’s.

And Musk has said that one of his goals for Twitter, if he closes a $44 billion deal to buy the company and take it private, is to provide a forum for all kinds of legal rulings. “If the citizens want something to be banned, enact a law to do so, otherwise it should be allowed,” he said. tweeted in may.

By that standard, Ye’s tweet would likely hold up, at least in the United States, where hate speech isn’t against the law. “It’s a mean tweet, but there’s no question that it’s protected by the First Amendment,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute.

Twitter, Instagram delete anti-Semitic messages from Kanye West, freeze accounts

Of course, offensive posts are nothing new on social media. But the biggest platforms, including Meta, Twitter, Google’s YouTube and ByteDance’s TikTok, have become much more active in recent years in developing and enforcing rules that restrict posts deemed threatening or hateful to other users or groups of people. Those efforts have sometimes led to backlash from prominent conservatives, from former President Donald Trump to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to Musk, who argue that tech companies have gone too far in suppressing conservative voices.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton did not respond to a request for comment about whether Twitter or Instagram should post messages like Ye’s when the Texas law goes into effect.

Musk did not respond to a request for comment on Ye’s tweet whether he would allow it as the owner of Twitter. When Ye resurfaced on Twitter, criticizing Instagram for locking his account, Musk replied, “Welcome back to Twitter, my friend!”

Texas law states that social media companies cannot “censor a user” based on their “point of view” — language that legal experts say could be interpreted to prohibit them from deleting anti-Semitic tweets. However, the measure includes an exception if the material “directly incites criminal activity or consists of specific threats of violence directed against an individual or group” based on characteristics, including their race or religion.

It’s unclear whether Ye’s tweet would meet the criteria for material to be removed under the law, scientists said. Deleting his Instagram post would probably be even harder to justify, as it was less overtly threatening.

Instagram and Twitter declined to say what specific rules Ye’s posts are breaking, a rare omission for a high-profile case.

Tech companies play out reactions to Texas social media law

Platforms famously responded after Trump posted in response to a wave of protests against racial justice: “When the looting begins, the shooting begins.” Twitter restricted the tweet according to its rules against “glorifying violence,” while Facebook kept abreast and let the comments go. Neither company said the comments violated their rules against threats of violence or incitement, despite calls from civil rights groups to ban him on those grounds.

The uncertainty about whether a vague but threatening anti-Semitic post would be protected under Texas law could prompt platforms to play it safe and leave it, fearing legal repercussions if they removed it. Legal experts have warned that the dynamics could have a chilling effect on companies’ mitigation efforts and lead to an increase in hate speech.

Tech trade groups representing Twitter and other social media companies are challenging the constitutionality of the Texas law in part on those grounds.

Florida, meanwhile, has asked the Supreme Court to investigate whether states can regulate the content moderation practices of tech companies after its own law prohibiting them from censoring political candidates or media outlets was largely ruled unconstitutional by an appeals court. Numerous other states have similar laws in the works, pending the outcome of the legal battle over the Texas and Florida laws.

“It illustrates the incredible difficulty of knowing what to do as a platform operating in Texas or Florida,” said Daphne Keller, who leads Stanford University’s platform regulation program. “It’s certainly safest to leave it, and the law may really require it.”

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