Under Elon Musk’s leadership, Twitter, now called “X,” has increased cooperation with German authorities. Recent reports show a significant rise in data sharing, particularly related to online hate crimes.
X’s Transparency Shifts
Since acquiring the platform, Musk has advocated for protecting free speech. However, different countries have varying boundaries for free speech, such as Germany with its strict hate speech regulations. As a result, X has shared user data with German authorities to address potential violations of these laws.
Furthermore, the number of cases where X complies with German requests has noticeably increased. Sebastian Murer from the Munich public prosecutors office reported that X now shares user data with Bavarian authorities in 50 to 100 cases per month. This represents a significant rise post-acquisition.
Additionally, a recent report by Rest of World, analyzing data from Harvard University’s Lumen database, highlighted a surge in X’s compliance with government requests for censorship and surveillance between November and April. Notably, requests from Turkey, Germany, and India stood out.
Shifting Priorities or Mere Compliance?
Previously, Twitter resisted government requests that seemed excessive, particularly regarding online speech. However, Yoel Roth, former head of Twitter’s trust and safety team, suggested that this resistance has diminished under Musk’s leadership. Roth argues that compliance is a simpler path, as resistance requires more resources.
However, as Germany intensifies its efforts to combat online hate, especially after the assassination of politician Walter Lübcke by a neo-Nazi, this cooperation becomes more crucial. Josephine Ballon from Hate Aid emphasized the importance of open public discourse involving local politicians and activists. She highlighted the potential threat that online hate campaigns pose to democracies.
Where Does This Leave X?
With Musk at the helm, X has undoubtedly relaxed its regulations regarding on-platform speech. Some experts believe that this has contributed to an increase in misinformation and hate speech on the platform.
While Musk’s transparency in dealing with a democratic nation like Germany is commendable, critics argue that such cooperation may set a precedent, making it difficult for X to refuse future requests from more authoritarian governments.
Therefore, while X’s collaboration with foreign governments may have advantages in certain contexts, it raises concerns about the potential implications for user privacy and freedom of speech worldwide.