Investigate the man who scares America

The boss of Tesla, the space firm SpaceX and the Starlink satellite network is the richest man in the world… the most uncontrollable too. Follower of risky and rowdy tweets, Musk promises absolute freedom on the social network, even if it means shaking democracy.

In one sentence, delivered at the end of Tesla’s earnings conference in September, Elon Musk announced the color: “We are obviously going to pay way too much.” Analysts Say Twitter Is Worth $25 Billion; he acquires it for 44 billion dollars.

An overpaid purchase is an investment celebrated with a machete. Not with a champagne flute, useless to make the clean cuts he intends to undertake. Problem: Elon Musk is a builder, not a degreaser. This is the first time he has bought a company. Genius entrepreneur, surely. Managing companies in difficulty, that remains to be seen.

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His first injunction to Twitter employees makes them smile. Especially the developers, who are asked to “print 50 pages of their work over thirty days for Elon Musk and his engineers to review”. As the hours go by, the company’s reams of paper run out. Printed lines of code pile up on desks. In terms of savings, things got off to a bad start… Then, in the afternoon, an e-mail fell: “Stop printing!!! Be ready to present your lines of code on your computer.”

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He is parting with 50% of the 7,500 employees… by e-mail

The same day, Elon Musk, who called himself “chief twit” (“twit” meaning idiot), got rid of the top 5 leaders. For a reason that will certainly be debated in court, the parties having no intention of abandoning Musk their $ 150 million golden parachute. Not to mention the severance pay for 50% of the 7,500 employees he parted ways with via email.

“It’s essential in a company that loses 4 million dollars a day,” justifies the new owner. This is what leads him to ask the “survivors” of this purge to find between 500 million and 1 billion in structural savings per year. “Starting with the plethoric servers” that make the network work. When it is pointed out to Elon Musk that, a week before the American elections, where Twitter risks heating up like never before, the period is not ideal, he is already elsewhere. And thinks about how to stuff the throat of his little blue bird. The obsession is not new.

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Subscribed to only 189 accounts, Elon Musk has 100 million followers and tweets all the time

Two months before the Covid19 pandemic was declared, in January 2020, Twitter’s 7,500 employees gathered in Houston for their annual convention, called #OneTeam. As usual in this kind of event, Jack Dorsey, still boss of the social network he co-founded in 2006, raised the temperature, announcing a surprise guest. A few moments later, Elon Musk appears on a giant screen, greets the crowd and smiles. Thunderous applause. The enthusiasm of Twitter employees for the boss of Tesla is not feigned: Musk is one of their best customers. Subscribed to only 189 accounts, he has 100 million followers and tweets all the time. As soon as an idea crosses his head, and he has a lot of them, including absurd ones, he posts it. To the delight of the social network, which feeds on the comments and controversies aroused.

In half-medieval, half-samurai warrior attire for Heidi Klum’s Halloween party on Oct. 31 in New York City.

© Stephen Lovekin//SIPA

On stage, Jack Dorsey remotely engages in a dialogue with Musk and, a little in jest, asks him: “By the way, would you like to run Twitter?” The room bursts into laughter. The richest man in the world already owns an electric car manufacturer (Tesla), a space launcher company (SpaceX), a brain implant start-up (Neuralink), a company that digs tunnels under Los Angeles (The Boring Company)… The question is “funny”, indeed. How would he find the time to take care of one of the most influential social networks in the West?

Elon Musk is part of the libertarian movement, for whom regulation is necessarily an obstacle

Still, Musk takes his time to respond. He leaves a silence that dispels the laughter, before explaining that he would try to make the operation of Twitter’s algorithms less opaque, and that he would improve the readability of moderation systems. “How do you know the comments are true or if someone is trying to manipulate the system? Or true, but possibly also manipulating the system?” The assistance remains taken aback. Among them, hundreds of moderators employed by Twitter, a central tool in its operation. In retrospect, they were right to worry, since they are now part of the bulk of the cart of employees thanked within the hour. “Even for the United States, it is brutal”, comments one of them.

“The bird is released”.  His takeover announcement on October 28 promises unfettered freedom of speech.

“The bird is released”. His takeover announcement on October 28 promises unfettered freedom of speech.

© DR

Like many American tech entrepreneurs, Elon Musk is part of the libertarian movement, for whom regulation is necessarily an obstacle. And according to its criteria, Twitter lives in a straightjacket. “Free speech is the foundation of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital public square where issues vital to the future of humanity are debated. Twenty-four hours after Twitter’s takeover, the hate barkers are unleashed. The network firewall is pierced by a surge of racist messages: + 1700%, according to the analysis company Dataminr. Insults rain down: 215 every five minutes, coming from all over the world.

Musk and Trump have the same principles: anti-system, ultra-liberal, not hesitating to say anything

In an America that is torn apart in a week of crucial elections, the stranglehold on Twitter of the man who describes himself as “an absolutist of freedom of expression” is frightening. Until the UN, which urges Musk to enforce human rights there. The interested party makes adjustments to reassure: “Of course, the platform cannot become a hellish place where everything can be said without consequences.” But, already, advertisers, who provide 91% of revenues, are fleeing. Within days, General Motors, CocaCola, Unilever, American Express, Spotify, Nintendo and many other brands, including French ones, suspended their advertisements, waiting to find out what freedom of expression covers according to Musk.

On the eve of the transaction, arrival of the future owner at Twitter, a sink (“sink” in English) in the arms to illustrate the expression “Let that sink in” (“I let you absorb the info”).

On the eve of the transaction, arrival of the future owner at Twitter, a sink (“sink” in English) in the arms to illustrate the expression “Let that sink in” (“I let you absorb the info”).

© DR

If Twitter is an economic dwarf (5 billion dollars in turnover against 118 for Meta [Facebook], for example), it is on the other hand a political giant. It is enough to see the reactions of the American political class – enthusiastic on the Republican side, worried on the Democratic side – to be convinced of this. Donald Trump, chased from the platform after the Capitol incidents in January 2021, does not hide his pleasure: “Twitter is in good hands and will no longer be run by these crazy radical leftists who hate our country! »

An “infox” circulates twenty times faster on the Internet than a real info

The two men look alike. The verb high, asserting itself antisystem, same ultraliberal approach, never hesitating to say anything. Like when Musk touts the benefits of chloroquine during the pandemic or, more recently, suggests that the assailant of Nancy Pelosi’s husband, attacked with a hammer, is in fact his lover. The tweet will be deleted in the face of the outcry caused.

The problem, and this is the concern aroused by Musk’s takeover, is that a “foxy” circulates twenty times faster on the Internet (study by the journal “Science”) than a real info. . At a time when radicalism plagues public debate, this is far from good news. Especially for Joe Biden.

He just bought himself a megaphone with 220 million subscribers

Without explaining why, Biden chose to make Musk an enemy. How? By not inviting him, in the summer of 2021, to an electric car summit organized at the White House. Worse, he asserts that General Motors is a pioneer in its sector and praises its job creations, without ever mentioning those of Tesla! Elon Musk replies curtly (on Twitter, of course): “Tesla has invested more than twice as much as GM and Ford combined in building electric vehicles”, becoming in fact one of his main opponents. In Russia, that wouldn’t be a problem. But in a democracy, becoming the opponent of the richest man in the world is not the best idea. Especially when he has just offered himself a megaphone with 220 million subscribers on which Joe Biden does not only have friends. The proof: Musk took sides and called for voting Republican.

The financial director Ned Segal was thanked by Elon Musk as soon as the takeover, with all the leaders of the company.

The financial director Ned Segal was thanked by Elon Musk as soon as the takeover, with all the leaders of the company.

© Ellian Raffoul Photography

In the end, what does Elon Musk of Twitter intend to do? “Let him become as incredible as possible,” he wrote in an email dated April to the CEO he just fired. The objective is therefore not to make money. In comparison to the valuation of Tesla (650 billion dollars), Twitter is for him a mosquito. But Musk knows how to get a business off the ground. In 2004, SpaceX was worth $100 million; society is now worth 125 billion!

He is considering the possibility – for a few dollars, of course – of sending a private message to a celebrity

According to the investors he met to prepare his round, Elon Musk wants to draw inspiration from WeChat, a Chinese model little known in the West. An application that would be both WhatsApp, Uber, Instagram and PayPal. Enough to quintuple advertising revenues and attract more than 900 million people before 2030, predicts Musk.

More eccentric, he is considering the possibility – for a few dollars, of course – of sending a private message to a celebrity. But will the celebrities still be there? Some have already announced that they do not intend to pay $8, as planned by Musk, to keep their account certified. “He should be paying me!” gets carried away Stephen King. Same outcry from anonymous, less concerned yet. Elon Musk replied to them in his own way: “You can tear me down all day long, it will be 8 dollars.”

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