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Phumzile Van Damme to Elon Musk: 'Grant anonymity to whistle-blowers but not peddlers of disinformation'

03 May 2022 - 11:00
Former DA MP Phumzile Van Damme says whistleblowers should be granted anonymity on the platform but not peddlers of misinformation.
Former DA MP Phumzile Van Damme says whistleblowers should be granted anonymity on the platform but not peddlers of misinformation.

Phumzile Van Damme says social media platform Twitter should protect users who are whistle-blowers by granting them anonymity but not peddlers of hate speech and disinformation.

The former DA MP chimed in on an exchange between Musk and US politician Mike Huckabee.

Huckabee reached out to Musk, CEO of Tesla, who recently bought Twitter, saying he hopes he will ensure that users use their real names and be accountable for tweets they put out.

“Be man or woman enough to stand by what you say! If you can’t own it don’t say it,” he said, to which Musk responded by saying an important balance needed to be struck by ensuring anonymity to those who need it. 

Van Damme, a former DA member, weighed in on the exchange saying authentication would be a great concept if it guaranteed anonymity and protection of personal data.

It’s important for people who need anonymity and protection such as whistle-blowers. But for people who use anonymity to spread hate speech and disinformation — that needs to be severely limited. If human authentication can guarantee anonymity & protect private data — great,” Van Damme tweeted.

Musk bought the popular social media network for $44bn (R700bn) last week. He said the platform will, under his ownership, adhere to principles of free speech within the ambit of the law.

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated. 

By ‘free speech’ I simply mean that which matches the law. I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law. If people want less free speech they will ask government to pass laws to that effect. Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people,” said Musk.

Locally, Van Damme is championing the fight against disinformation. After leaving the DA last year, she launched an anti-misinformation project aimed at tackling the spread of misinformation on social media platforms.

She told TimesLIVE the project will also educate users about the difference between fake news, misinformation and disinformation which are often wrongly used.

She said disinformation, which is information that is deliberately published to mislead, posed a threat to divide people across racial, religious and political lines. 

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