The day after the announcement of the acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk, Monday 25 April, the political divide is evident in the face of the desire expressed by the billionaire to make social networks “An open arena for freedom of expression” loosening his rules of moderation. Unsurprisingly, the announcement delighted America’s conservative right, which regularly criticizes Silicon Valley companies for favoring the Democrats. Republican Senator Jim Jordanfor example, greeted “The return of freedom of expression” on the platform, while Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburnknown for her conservative stances, she said she was a “great day to be conservative on Twitter” and that it was “It’s time for Twitter to become what it was meant to be: a digital platform open to all opinions”.
Even in France, some are enthusiastic about the event, particularly on the far right. “Elon Musk’s Takeover of Twitter: Great News for Freedom of Expression! Enough with the censorship, we are suffocating! Long live the freedom! “, for example wrote Florian Philippotpresident of the Patriots and former right-hand man of Marine Le Pen.
On the other side of the political spectrum, however, we are concerned about this cult of absolute freedom of expression defended by the new Twitter boss, contrary to the efforts made by the platform for several years to improve the moderation of hateful content. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren immediately notified of a “Agreement dangerous for our democracy”. In the European Union, the councilor responsible for the internal market, Thierry Breton, warned that the social network “should fully adapt to European rules”while the Secretary of State in charge of the digital transition in France, Cédric O, wanted to remember That “The law on digital services – and therefore the obligation to fight disinformation, online hatred, etc. – applies[rait] whatever the ideology by the owner of Twitter.
If the capture of Elon Musk’s bluebird provokes such mixed reactions it is because the SpaceX and Tesla boss has shown in the past that he has a very personal conception of freedom of expression: the resentful criticism, his desire to silence rumors. dissenters at times showed himself in the most childish way.
In July 2018 he qualified for no reason “pedophile” a Brit who helped rescue children trapped in a cave in Thailand. The only fault of the person concerned: having qualified from “marketing stunt” Elon Musk’s offer to contribute to the operation by loaning a dwarf submarine. The same year, dissatisfied with the critical financial analysis of Tesla that a blogger posted on the Internet, Mr. Musk himself picked up the phone to complain directly to the company that employed the Internet user. Two years earlier it had been another blogger who had sustained the entrepreneur’s wrath: since he had posted a harsh critique of an event organized by Tesla online, the latter had seen his order purely and simply canceled.
To these episodes, which illustrate the egoic dimension of Elon Musk’s personality, are added several events that show that the billionaire has little taste for counterpowers. Starting with the unions, towards which he has never hidden his hostility. ” Why pay union dues and give up stock options for nothing? ” tweeted one day, while at the same time a Tesla employee who was trying to create a union was fired.
Variable geometry censorship
Elon Musk has also had a more than stormy relationship with the media, whose coverage of his auto company displeased him. On his Twitter account of him, in 2018, he did not hesitate to multiply very hostile messages against a journalist from Business Insider, who investigated Teslawhile media like Reuters or CNBC they were the object of his public anger. Also on his Twitter account, Musk has long detailed his distrust and disapproval of traditional media, even playing with the idea of creating an evaluation service for media and journalists. The original plan was to call this facility “Pravda”, named after the official Communist Party newspaper during the Soviet Union. Elon Musk has been massively followed by a crowd of adoring fans, each of his criticisms being amplified and multiplied, causing significant waves of harassment aimed specifically at journalists, many of whom are now self-censoring when it comes to covering Tesla or Elon Musk.
Even the culture of freedom of expression like Musk seems to know how to live with a certain amount of censorship which, however, it claims to fight, since it serves the interests of its companies. In 2021, according to the Bloomberg agency, his company Tesla did not hesitate to approach the Chinese authorities to complain about the attacks, which it considers unjustified, which it was subjected to on the country’s social networks, demanding that Beijing intercede on its behalf and block some of these messages. In fact, China is the second largest market, after the United States, for the electric car manufacturer.
Combined with his gory jokes and its politically very marked positions, both in terms of the alleged “virus woke up” or the Covid-19 pandemic – of which he described the resulting panic “stupid” -, this mosaic of elements explains why the arrival of Elon Musk at the helm of Twitter is not unanimous. Except, perhaps, on the many Telegram channels of the complosphere, where a man is celebrated who “Intended to restore freedom of expression to millions of people”commenting on the news with these words: “Good news: we will be able to return to Twitter. “