Editorial of the “World”. “I made an offer. » Elon Musk surreptitiously announced on April 14 on his Twitter account, its intention to buy the American social network. The boss of Tesla, and SpaceX, is known as much for his strokes of genius in business as for his taste for provocation. The last of its kind weighs 43 billion dollars (39.7 billion euros), but it is above all through its political and societal dimension that its hostile public purchase operation raises questions.
Elon Musk did not only position himself as an entrepreneur sniffing out the right investment. The man, who is at the head of a heritage of 260 billion dollars, has just completed the financing of his operation. But his ambitions go far beyond that. “Twitter can become the platform for freedom of expression around the world and I believe that freedom of expression is essential for a functioning democracy”he says.
The boss of Tesla has always shown an assumed libertarianism. Convinced that each individual has fundamental freedoms and rights that no power has the right to violate, Elon Musk relies on an expansive interpretation of freedom of expression, in resonance with the First Amendment of the Constitution of States. -United.
Not an asset like the others
Created in the United States, social networks initially adopted this approach, which paved the way for many excesses: jihadist propaganda and conspiracies of all kinds suddenly took hold. Individuals can be threatened with death by mobs of Internet users, while others disseminate with impunity false information likely to disrupt the outcome of an election or promote the spread of a pandemic.
Twitter has come to gradually adopt a framework that regulates expression more tightly. It is now possible to report hate speech or misleading information. This policy had a particular impact with the definitive suspension, in January 2021, of the account of the outgoing President of the United States, Donald Trump, for incitement to violence in the wake of the attack on the Capitol.
Despite these measures, Twitter remains highly criticized for the effectiveness with which it manages to moderate the expression of its users. To take only French examples, the death threats and mob harassment suffered by the former journalist and ex-hostage of the Islamic State Nicolas Hénin, or by the young Mila, who had published a controversial video on the Islam, show that the social network still has enormous progress to make. Mr. Musk, on the contrary, believes that moderation is going too far.
Twitter is not an asset like the others. It is a medium whose audience can have considerable weight in certain circumstances. Its takeover by a billionaire who has a desire to impose his own conception of freedom of expression goes far beyond the business world. This would give free rein to misinformation, hatred and racism. Far from protecting democracy, this libertarianism would weaken its foundations.
This threat only reinforces the initiative of the European Union, which is about to adopt new legislation on digital services intended to impose obligations of means and transparency on their content moderation. Twitter does not need less regulation, but a stricter framework to protect its users, as Barack Obama reminded us again on April 21 during a conference at Stanford (California).