[This was a comment I made at File 770 on this issue the other day]
I think the Trust and Safety council is very much about free speech. I disagree with others here (to a limited extent) that because Twitter is a private company that free-speech doesn’t come into it. The broader notion applies even if the specific aspect of the US Bill of Rights does not – i.e. if you are making a platform for people to discuss ideas and communicate with each other then people should feel free to speak openly. Twitter isn’t obliged to do that but it is something that I think ethically they should TRY to do given the nature of what they were doing (e.g. if they were making cornflakes then not so much).
Doxxing, harassment, threats, bullying, sexualized comments, fat shaming, attempting to persuade people to commit suicide, SWATing and systematic verbal abuse are all actions that LIMIT speech. There is no doubt about that nor any doubt why the alt-right has adopted those behaviors (which can be found in all ideologies to varying degrees) as formal tactics in their culture war. They do these things to SILENCE people, to drive people away from platforms. This isn’t a secret. They are open about their use of these tactics as weapons against what they see as leftwing cultural hegemony. Consequently, yes any moves to PROTECT speech on twitter (i.e. people actually discussing ideas) falls disproportionately on a group that OPPOSES speech on Twitter (i.e. those attempting to make people FEAR that if they speak up they will be targetted for abuse by a particular kind of political troll).
The alt-right didn’t invent online abuse and they didn’t invent trolling. They don’t have a monopoly on either. However they have, of their own free will and as a deliberate ploy, adopted online abuse as a tactic whose purpose is to silence their opponents.
Free speech is a good thing for a reason. It is good because it is what facilitates the exchange of ideas and that needs to include unpopular ideas. Is this what the alt-right are defending? No. They aren’t defending the *exchange* of ideas nor are they trying to facilitate a dialogue. Rather they are trying to shut particular voices down (which voices? In particular *women* – hence the false claims that Anita Sarkessian heads the Trust and Safety council). There are ideas that they do not want expressed and they will use personal attacks designed to cause real world damage to people as a means to that end.
I don’t think the issue of free speech is limited to government but I also don’t think it is some rule-book clause either. The ethical imperative that arises from free speech is that we should seek to maximize the exchange of ideas and enable people to discuss without fear. Consequently I don’t have a problem with limiting how others may try to stop others speaking freely. Can Vox, Milo, Baldwin, et al currently express their ideology? Sure, they are hardly lacking platforms and it isn’t like Vox’s political views (for example) don’t get an airing. Can they seriously not find a way to discuss their views via Twitter without breaking the Twitter terms of service? I very much doubt that and to date none of them have explained how there is intrinsically a conflict.