By buying Twitter, Elon Musk wants to create a “huge application”: X app. “It will be a major data capture system,” said Asma Mhalla, teacher at Sciences-Po Paris and the Ecole polytechnique, on Wednesday in the RTS program Tout un monde.
“Beyond the show around Elon Musk’s industrial project – his very whimsical side, his incessant tweets and his trolling – there is the creation of X app”, advances Asma Mhalla, teacher at Sciences-Po Paris and at the ‘Polytechnic university.
What do we know about X app? Elon Musk wants to take inspiration from the Chinese WeChat, by creating a “huge application” with a social network, private messaging… “It will be a major system for capturing industrial and personal data, especially if it is correlates with his other projects, including Starlink (network of satellites to ensure an internet connection, editor’s note).”
And to add: “In the very short term, there is an issue of profitability. In the longer term, Twitter is for Elon Musk a turnkey technological solution to develop his X app.”
If Elon Musk were to become a pebble in the diplomatic shoe of Joe Biden or another president, the United States has the coercive means, by law and institutions, to reframe him.
The X app project must be watched with “enormous vigilance”, especially since it “will be backed by the ideology” of Elon Musk. “Behind Musk, on a number of projects like SpaceX, there is NASA or the Pentagon. So there is always in one way or another the American State as a contributor with an official public-private partnership or looking at it closely. The White House purposely does not react to Elon Musk’s statements on Ukraine, for example, so as not to give them a boost.”
However, if Elon Musk became a “pebble in the diplomatic shoe” of Joe Biden or another president, “the United States has the coercive means, by law and institutions, to reframe him,” said Asma Mhalla.
Certification, a democratic tool
Elon Musk clarified his first major project on Tuesday: an $8 per month subscription for users wishing to have their account certified as authentic. Currently, only certain profiles can request this token of authenticity, including governments, companies, media, political, cultural or sports personalities, etc.
>> Read also: Elon Musk wants change at Twitter… and fast
“In a number of authoritarian regimes, certification allows journalists, opponents or activists to certify that it is indeed their word, and therefore not to be hacked by the government”, underlines the specialist digital geopolitical issues.
The influence of Twitter
The richest man in the world has repeated since the beginning of the acquisition of Twitter that he wants to strengthen freedom of expression in this “public square” essential to democracy, and that profitability is not his priority . “Since the takeover of Twitter was made official, there has been an explosion of anti-Semitic and conspiratorial comments and accounts,” she said. “The facho-sphere has returned in an extremely virulent way, including in Europe.”
Compared to Facebook, which has 3 billion users, Twitter and its 230 million accounts is a small social network. “The strength of Twitter is its prescriptive side in the media and political sphere. (…) For example, the trade war between Trump and China happened on Twitter. (…) With this purchase, Elon Musk also seizes greater media and political influence, but also the ability to set the agenda.”
With Twitter, Elon Musk seizes greater media and political influence, but also the possibility of setting the agenda
Asma Mhalla believes that there is the “same logic” with the concentration of traditional media in the hands of large industrialists like Vincent Bolloré. But if Twitter becomes a space for conspiracies, violence, cyberbullying, with Elon Musk adding fuel to the fire, we could see users deserting. Which would not be in the interest of the new owner, she insists.
“Social networks are new weapons of war where wars and information struggles are also played out. The ambivalence of social networks is that they are public spaces, and even ‘militarized’. From a legal point of view, they remain private companies accountable to the market, and in the case of Twitter, to Elon Musk himself.”
According to the teacher at Sciences-Po Paris, the public authorities must “very quickly take up the question”.
Interview by Eric Guevara-Frey
Web adaptation: Valentin Jordil