because the “freedom of expression” defended by billionaire concerns

Elon Musk, President and CEO of SpaceX Corporation and CEO of Tesla, April 6, 2022.

The day after the announcement of the acquisition of Twitter by Elon MuskMonday, April 25, the political divide is evident in the face of the billionaire’s desire to create 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.

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Epidermal reactions

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 “Dangerous agreement 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.

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In July 2018, he called 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, displeased with the critical financial analysis of Tesla that a blogger was posting on the Internet, Mr. Musk he picked up the phone himself report directly to the company that hired the Internet user. Two years earlier it had been another blogger who had borne the brunt of the entrepreneur’s anger: because he had posted online a harsh criticism of an event organized by Tesla, the latter had saw his vehicle order purely and simply canceled.

To these episodes, which illustrate the selfish 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? “, He tweeted one day, while at the same time a Tesla employee who was trying to create a union was fired.

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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 do so multiply very hostile messages against a reporter Business Insiderwho had investigated Tesla, while media such as Reuters or CNBC were the objects of his public wrath. Also on his Twitter account, Musk detailed his distrust and disapproval of traditional media at length, even playing with the idea of ​​creating an evaluation service for media and journalists. The original plan had to call this structure “Pravda”, named after the official newspaper of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. With Elon Musk being extremely followed by a crowd of adoring fans, each of the criticisms of him was amplified and multiplied, causing significant waves of harassment aimed specifically at journalists. many now self-censor 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 Bloomberg news agency, his company Tesla did not hesitate to approach the Chinese authorities to denounce the attacks, which it considers unjustified, which it was subjected to on the country’s social networks, asking 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. “

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