After PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla, the billionaire wants to “realize” the enormous potential of this particular social network, with a vision of freedom of speech that questions.
Predicting the future is never easy. Especially if your target is one of the most influential discussion platforms globally, they were bought by one of the most fantastic billionaires. But that’s human nature, and the implications of Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter have been on everyone’s lips since it became official on Monday, April 25. For a good reason.
Whether you’re one of the 217 million daily users of Twitter or a private citizen, the social network impacts many people’s lives. From politicians to activists, companies to journalists and institutions, the “microblogging site” has become a gigantic global echo chamber, invested by many influential people who contact millions of anonymous users discussing the same topics.
A modern and global agora for some, a ubiquitous and tragic gladiatorial arena for others, the platform is a case apart in the world of social networks. Its new buyer, Elon Musk, is a particular case in the world of billionaires. after having founded and made money from PayPal at the turn of the millennium, the businessman has reinvested almost all of his fortune in rockets. On the one hand with SpaceX, and electric cars on the other, with Tesla. It only took two decades for these two companies to revolutionize their respective sectors, while the South African billionaire was a loser in both cases.
So maybe Elon Musk will succeed in “realizing” the enormous untapped potential of Twitter, as he promised. To allow this particular social network, based on public and interconnected exchanges, to “fulfill its societal mission.” In short, as the billionaire himself explains, to provide humanity with “a public platform that is maximally trusted and widely open.” In any case, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey trusts Elon Musk and “his mission to expand the light of consciousness.”
But with Twitter, Elon Musk is tackling a challenge that is no longer just technical but goes to the heart of the human being, his digital interactions and their drifts. The obstacles in the billionaire’s way, listed by several specialists in recent days, are many and varied, and it will take more than an electric car or a rocket to overcome them.
Freedom (of speech), I call out your name.
In the Twitter takeover, improving free speech has become Elon Musk’s main mantra, convinced that the moderation policy currently enforced by the social network is not good. ″As Twitter serves as a de facto town square, failure to uphold the principles of free speech fundamentally undermines democracy. What to do?” wrote Elon Musk to explain his decision.
The one who criticizes the “woke minds virus” of Netflix and is used to controversial tweets thus regrets that Twitter has permanently banned several users, Donald Trump being the most famous. For him, if the message’s subject is in a “gray area,” it must be allowed to live – freedom of expression obliges.
But as Mike Masnick, an expert on these issues, explains, this type of language is nothing new. The leading American social networks were born with this idea before realizing that moderation was essential for a certain number of users with communities with diverse and varied values. Not to mention country-specific regulations on freedom of speech.
According to several studies, the researcher Jaigris Hodson reminds us that the people affected by online harassment are targeted more according to their belonging to a minority than their words. And if the platform on which the exchange takes place does nothing about this harassment, these people are likely to leave the social network. Thus reducing the variety of opinions present.
In a reaction to the announcement of this takeover, Amnesty International also recalled that harassment and hate speech persist on Twitter, especially towards women and minorities. “We are concerned about any steps Twitter may take to erode the application of policies and mechanisms designed to protect users,” the human rights organization said.
The mirage of spam and openness
In recent years, the moderation of social networks -Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…- has also been made increasingly necessary by multiplying false information published with political or economic intent.
Elon Musk has not given detailed explanations on what he intends to do about this, except that he said he wants to make the Twitter algorithm open. The public to “increase trust, defeat spambots and authenticate all humans.”