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“Real Time” host Bill Maher railed against Twitter on Friday for “failing” on what should and shouldn’t be allowed on its platform as Elon Musk takes over the social media giant.
“Has Twitter failed in setting itself up in the past as the judge of what can go out there? And I would say yes, you have,” Maher said during a panel discussion Friday night. “You failed when you threw the New York Post off of Twitter for talking about Hunter Biden’s emails. And it turned out that was a real story. You failed when you said we couldn’t read about whether COVID had come from a lab. You failed!”
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Maher pointed to how Twitter slapped the “sensitive content” label on a video produced by the conservative satire The Babylon Bee, which mocked sensitive Twitter staffers freaking out about the Tesla CEO becoming their new boss.
“‘Sensitive content,’ Twitter said. In the video, they were making fun of Twitter for being too sensitive. This is so ‘Through the Looking Glass’!” Maher exclaimed. “This is well within what satire has always been. And the fact that they flagged this for being insensitive shows their complete lack of self-awareness about what their own problem is. If that’s where the line is, you have failed Twitter. You do need a new sheriff.”
Maher bashed Twitter for becoming a “left-wing place” and how media organizations have become “silos” for people who want a narrow their news to match their politics, hoping the platform can become the “town square” Musk says it should be.
“Twitter could be a place where you might see an opinion that you didn’t formally consider, and we need that desperately in America,” Maher said.
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The HBO star took a swipe at former President Barack Obama, who recently launched a campaign against disinformation and claimed it’s going to be Gen Z “that figures this out.”
“I hope not. Because they are worse,” Maher said. “I’d much rather have Elon Musk making the rules that a 23-year-old who can’t take the joke on Babylon Beeswax, or whatever the f— that is. I mean, this is a generation that doesn’t know what the word ‘violence’ means. They think ‘violence’ means ‘anything I don’t like.’ Their standard of free speech is ‘I’m uncomfortable.’ That’s not where the standard is, right?”
Maher blasted the education system for failing to teach “civics” to young people.
“Civics doesn’t exist anymore. They don’t know … ‘Free speech? What the f— does that mean? It hurt my feelings.’ That’s what matters to them. That’s what I worry about. I mean, I hear it all the time,” the comedian said.
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The “Real Time” host previously cheered on Musk’s pursuit to buy Twitter earlier in April when the billionaire revealed he had become the company’s largest shareholder while posing the question of what the panel thought.
“I’m for it!” Maher exclaimed while pounding the table.
“We live in a different age where Twitter is the public square now. If you deny someone’s right to speak on Twitter, you’re basically saying you don’t have free speech rights,” Maher said. “We’re not living in 1980 anymore. This is a different world we live in where social media controls this. So social media is sort of a … it’s living in a space that’s not exactly a publication, but it’s not exactly a private company either … That’s why it’s so tricky.”
New York Times writer David Leonhardt argued that the description Maher gave to Twitter was what was given to media outlets like ABC, CBS, NBC and The New York Times “50 years ago” when they dominated public discourse.
“But they didn’t air lies about election fraud,” Leonhardt said. “You couldn’t turn on Walter Cronkite and hear, like, ‘Actually, Barry Goldwater won the election,’ right? That’s now what you get on Twitter from Donald Trump!”
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“I understand that, but Twitter also said you couldn’t — they banned you talking about whether coronavirus came from a lab — and it may well have. And even the Biden administration admits that now,” Maher pushed back. “We don’t know where coronavirus came from, but there’s no reason to think it couldn’t have emerged from a lab. They have a lab in Wuhan that was studying coronavirus! And you couldn’t even discuss this! I mean, that’s outrageous!”
“I think that’s what Elon Musk wants to fix at Twitter,” Maher said. “I think so.”