MRC President Brent Bozell and Twitter Files journalist Matt Taibbi sounded the alarm on the precarious state of free speech online as leftist elites embrace censorship and AI.
During an exclusive MRC interview, Taibbi told Bozell that he’s seen a “change in the culture” that has led both the media and Big Tech companies to attack free speech after they were previously some of the strongest defenders of free speech. “What’s particularly strange about this moment … is that there’s been this very very drastic change in how people in the mainstream press look at certain issues,” Taibbi said. “I mean, 15 years ago most of the people in the media were hard-core free speech advocates, and they’ve done a complete 180 on that issue.”
Taibbi added that sometimes it can be hard to get networks to cover stories because of a polarized partisan culture that disregards free speech. The Twitter Files and other critiques of the Trump-Russia collusion hoax are great examples of this. “With the Russiagate issue, I don’t really see that as a left-right issue; it’s just factually wrong and with the Twitter Files — yes, there was an element to that story that saw probably more people in the United States who were conservatives,” he said. “Globally I think it’s much more of a inside-outside type of thing, like rich, porer type of divide. But yes I was absolutely pilloried by the mainstream media for even doing the story at all.”
Bozell also asked Taibbi whether Big Tech could “ever be an objective platform of ideas or do radicals have such control of it that free speech is not going to be allowed?”
Taibbi reiterated the enormous shift in attitudes toward free speech on social media. “I think in the original conception of the internet a lot of the people who were running things were a little bit more libertarian in their conception. They didn’t really have a whole lot of interest in trying to moderate content,” he said. “[T]he idea of allowing anything that was not criminally offensive speech, I think that was kind of the standard once upon a time.” The journalist added that things have radically lurched towards a more dystopian culture where policing speech has becomeis the norm. He noted “an influx of people who came in in the 2010’s especially, and they did feel it was their job to police what people said. And that was kind of a new thing.”
When asked what he sees as the future for AI and journalism, Taibbi said that he does “worry” about the direction that AI use appears to be going. “It’s probably headed no place good,” he said. “I think mainly what we saw in The Twitter Files is that they were already trying to use machine learning to algorithmically analyze content and user behavior. I think what AI is going to do is it’s try and identify ahead of time news stories that will appeal to certain demographics over others. It’s going to start picking out the topics for reporters ahead of time. It’s maybe even doing some of the work for them, which I worry about.”
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