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The Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon is baffled that liberal critics of Elon Musk’s potential Twitter takeover are essentially admitting they don’t want free speech on the platform.
“I think it’s very telling, you know, the freakout over a man who’s coming in and simply saying he wants this to be an inclusive platform where free speech prevails. I just don’t see what’s objectionable about that,” Dillon told Fox News Digital.
“I find it astonishing that it’s actually an acceptable thing to be against that. You know, they talk about the dangers that this poses to democracy. How is it dangerous for democracy to have debate? To have an open platform where people aren’t being arbitrarily sidelined and silenced? I mean, I think it’s only good for democracy,” Dillon continued. “I think that it’s healthy. You know, this goal of having an informed electorate, I think is better met and served by having open discussions, free speech and not heavy-handed censorship.”
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The news of Musk’s $44-billion acquisition of Twitter last month sparked panic from the left, with liberal Twitter staffers expressing anger and progressive cable news hosts worrying that Musk could use Twitter to “secretly ban” or “turn down the reach” of a major party’s candidate ahead of an election.
Dillon was notified on March 20 – prior to Twitter accepting Musk’s offer being accepted – that his satirical site was locked out of its widely followed Twitter account after it accused the Bee of violating its rules against “hateful conduct.” The offending conduct was to name transgendered Biden administration official Dr. Rachel Levine the satire site’s “Man of the Year” for 2022.
The Babylon Bee site has since lost an appeal but Dillon is “optimistic” the account will be unlocked without him caving and deleting the tweet that irked current Twitter leadership.
“My expectation is, with the statements that Musk has made, and the relationship that we’ve had with him, although I don’t have any guarantees, you know, there’s never been any guarantees offered,” Dillon said. “But I do think that if he’s going to make it an inclusive platform, and he’s going to try to ensure that this is a free speech platform, then we will likely be back on it without having to delete the tweet.”
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Dillon, who has developed a connection with Musk as a fellow free speech advocate, said many refer to censorship on Twitter as “content moderation,” but he believes it goes well beyond simply making sure the platform’s policies aren’t violated. He feels a balance is needed between free speech and legitimate content moderation, but he believes many of Musk’s critics are simply confused when they envision the platform as complete anarchy under the Tesla mogul.
“The most important thing to get clear is that nobody that I know of on the right, and certainly not Elon Musk, nobody is calling for a free-for-all platform, an anything-goes platform where even unlawful speech is posted without any consequence,” Dillon said. “The First Amendment protects the freedom to speak lawfully. It doesn’t protect you when you’re doing illegal things like, for example, inciting violence.”
Dillon doesn’t think Twitter should condone threats, calls for violence or other illegal actions, but those type of things aren’t protected by the First Amendment either way.
“Nobody’s calling for a free-for-all where this would be an anything-goes platform,” Dillon said. “I think Musk would like to see Twitter get much closer to a platform that mirrors what the town square should be.”
Dillon is aware that harsh insults, inappropriate jokes and even old-fashioned rudeness will be prevalent on any popular social media platform that allows free speech. However, all of those things are supposed to be legal in the United States.
“We’re free to do that, and I think the necessity of freedom, the downside of freedom, anything when you talk about free will in general, just having free will, the freedom to make choices, well, that makes good things possible, like love and charity and kindness, but it also makes all kinds of evil possible,” Dillon said. “That’s the downside of freedom, right? But the cost is is is worth it because it makes the good things possible.”
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Dillon feels the same argument applies when it comes to free speech but, luckily for Americans on Twitter, they can simply chose now to follow people they don’t want to hear from.
“There’s a high cost to free speech. The cost is that there’s going to be things that you don’t want to hear, things that you don’t want to see. The great thing about these platforms, though, is that they’re built in such a way that they give you a lot of control over what content you consume,” he said, noting that Twitter users have many ways to silence people they don’t want to hear from.
There is no true precedent for a privately owned company with the reach of Twitter to serve as a public square, which Dillon insists is a problem because First Amendment protections must apply to where Americans are actually speaking.
“Either the law needs to catch up to the times or someone like Musk needs to come in and take over and say, ‘Look, we need to honor the fact that people have a First Amendment right here, and we shouldn’t be infringing on that if we are, in effect, you know, managing the public square,’” Dillon said.
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Dillon has said that current Twitter management disqualified themselves from being in charge of what speech should be allowed on the platform after scandals like censoring the New York Post’s infamous Hunter Biden story that turned out to be accurate. While Dillon doesn’t want far-left Twitter employees making those decisions, he doesn’t want people who agree with his conservative ideology controlling it, either.
“I don’t think anybody should be in control of public discourse. The whole point is that there shouldn’t be somebody who’s controlling public discourse. It should be open. People should be able to control their own words and be able to decide what they want to say and who they want to say it to,” Dillon said.
Among the critics of Musk’s potential purchase of the social media juggernaut was MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan, who recently called the world’s richest person a “petulant and not-so-bright billionaire” who is “in the process of taking over Twitter” and “handing that platform on a platter to the far right.” Dillon feels the MSNBC host essentially made himself ineligible for reasonable discussion with the “not-so-bright” comment.
“I don’t think there’s any argument that Elon Musk is bright. You know, he’s very bright. So that’s just a silly thing to say. I’m sure he’s a lot brighter than whoever it was that said that,” Dillon said. “I mean, if you take [Musk] at face value, he’s he said that that Twitter should be as inclusive as possible, and it should be as fair as possible, which means that there’s going to be people on the far right and on the far left who are going to be upset about it.”
Dillon wants Twitter to ultimately be a place where nobody is excluded over their viewpoints, even if they go against the popular opinion pushed by the mainstream media.
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“You’re going to have controversial opinions and, you know, controversial opinions, if they’re not yours, if they’re from across the aisle, can be upsetting to people on the other side. But hey, that’s free speech,” Dillon said.
Fox News’ Hanna Panreck and Gabriel Hays contributed to this report.