Absolutist or Utilitarian?
what do we make of Musk's repeated appeals to quantitative standards for success in content moderation policies?
In an exchange with Ben Shapiro on Twitter, Elon Musk once again adopted a quantitative standard for success in content moderation: “My goal is to maximize area under the curve of total human happiness, which means the ~80% of people in the middle.” And from April 19:
Now, it may indeed be the case that doing content moderation correctly—which to me means to consistently implement the principle of free expression within the context of a social media platform—will yield this quantitative result. But it gives me pause when Musk states this as a quantitative standard, rather than a qualitative one. And so I created this thread in response, outlining what I see to be the proper approach:
In another tweet on April 26, Musk mentions existing law as a standard for what should be permitted.
That’s quite a bit better—at least if we’re talking about law in the United States. But still, it’s positivism, it’s the acceptance of law, whatever it is. It’s not free speech absolutism as I would understand it. And so my response:
Again, Musk working to implement policies according to his stated standards might well yield a result similar to that which I work to implement at Parler. His heart definitely seems to be in the right place. But the formulations give me pause and so I think we’ll just have to wait and see how this plays out.