Musk fucks around (with US sanctions) and finds out.

Musk’s X sold checkmarks to Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, report says

After buying Twitter for $44 billion, Musk started charging users for checkmarks that were previously intended to verify that an account was notable and authentic. "Along with the checkmarks, which are intended to confer legitimacy, X promises various perks for premium accounts, including the ability to post longer text and videos and greater visibility for some posts," the Tech Transparency Project report noted.

The Tech Transparency Project suggests that X may be violating US sanctions. "The accounts identified by TTP include two that apparently belong to the top leaders of Lebanon-based Hezbollah and others belonging to Iranian and Russian state-run media," the report said. "The fact that X requires users to pay a monthly or annual fee for premium service suggests that X is engaging in financial transactions with these accounts, a potential violation of US sanctions."

As soon as they were announced, Musk’s paid checkmarks stirred widespread criticism for empowering impersonators and corroding public trust, all while handing special privileges to those able to fork over the cash.

Now, Musk faces allegations of violating U.S. sanctions through his verification paywall.

The Tech Transparency Project flagged paid, verified accounts that likely belong to leaders of the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah and Russian and Iranian state-controlled media. Since the U.S. sanctions bar providing financial services or resources to designated groups without authorization, the subscriptions enabling that blue check likely constitute sanctions violations under Musk’s Twitter.

It turns out there are concrete legal and ethical duties interlaced with moderating content, no matter the bluster from unilateral strongmen like Musk about upholding unlimited free speech by imposing their worldview through rule by decree.

In reality, judging what speech to permit involves weighing factors around safety, privacy, regional laws, and more – not just abstract, tech brolosophy scattered to the wind. Courts require platforms to curb exploitative content. Advertisers impose content guidelines on the networks they bankroll. Industry codes of conduct erect further content guardrails. Platforms have to balance free expression with protection and accountability.

And regulations on issues like hate speech, harassment, and even vile ideas such as Holocaust denial diverge drastically between regions, forcing the geo-blocking of certain content rather than one-size-fits-all global policies. Values seep into these judgments. Without accepting these constraints and trade-offs, calls for hands-off moderation under the banner of “free speech” threaten authentic dangers by providing a safe haven for violent extremism, misinformation, and illegal acts.

No single standard or national law totally captures the contextual fine print and nuances of content moderation. Behind absolutist free speech lies a stubborn blindness to the devils in the details.

Instead of vehemently opposing moderation or advocating for its removal by tech leaders like Musk, progress involves advocating for transparency and oversight in policy enforcement, facilitating recourse, handling appeals, and other related measures.

Twitter’s chaotic transition underlines the tightrope act of moderating online content. In betting Twitter’s future on expanding subscriptions over advertising, the friction between those business incentives and responsible platform governance has become impossible to ignore.

Cementing social networks as any force for truth / mutual understanding is - sadly - an impossible goal.

But we still owe it to each other to peer behind the veil of free speech absolutism to address the world as it exists – shades of grey and all.

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