Is Elon Musk’s takeover attempt on Twitter a threat?

The libertarian billionaire wants to get his hands on Twitter to “restore” freedom of expression, he explains. That is to say, among other things, to go back to the moderation policy put in place by Twitter. It notably led (as on Facebook), to the banishment of Donald Trump’s account. To do this, Elon Musk has just offered to completely buy out Twitter and take it out of the stock market. For years, the boss of Tesla and SpaceX has positioned himself as a defender of freedom of expression. The latter would be threatened by the moderation of Twitter.

An initiative supported by the American reactionary right

Elon Musk’s initiative is also supported by the American reactionary right, which is struggling to keep its alternative networks alive. Except that, “a deregulation of the site would therefore mean the return of part of this important current to the United States, certainly, but also of the far-right trolls and their weapons of massive disinformation”, according to Benoît Raphaël, expert in artificial intelligence and information systems.

Researcher Olivier Ertzscheid, a specialist in new technologies at the University of Nantes, deciphers the consequences of a possible total takeover of Twitter by billionaire Elon Musk, who advocates a radical vision of freedom of expression. A fine connoisseur of the economic model of social media, the academic explains the difference between freedom of expression and its algorithmic amplification, which he believes justifies moderation.

The need to impose rules in public debate

It should nevertheless be noted that “freedom does not mean neutrality”. The manipulation of algorithms by organized groups (in all camps for that matter) to artificially bring up information and debates is a reality. No freedom without rules.

We know it well, we cannot do everything and say everything, especially without consequences. To allow public debate to take place with respect for others, certain rules have therefore been put into effect. Incitement to hatred or defamation are, for example, punishable by law. Right, it seems. However, the cursor is not always so easy to position…

Should we remove all the speeches that bother us, that can be perceived as insulting or that question official information, even if it means falling into conspiracy? It is essential to ask the right questions and to define the bases as well as the contours of the freedom of expression which is so dear to us.

The stranglehold of “Web giants” on the debate, source of criticism

On the other hand, is it up to a private American company, especially with such a degree of influence, to decide the rules for moderating global public debate? Isn’t it up to the States (whose traditional role it is) to preserve (while regulating it) freedom of expression in the public space? But in this case, would Twitter remain a space of freedom if it had to apply the censorship of authoritarian regimes?

Olivier Ertzscheid, like many others, denounces the problem of the governance of social networks, which allows their leaders to concentrate excessive power. Paradoxically, “the fact that Elon Musk can obtain such power is [pour lui] disturbing”.

As we can see, the question is complex. It must force us to rethink the role of peoples in the regulation of their spaces for debate: Private rules? Public rules? Role of justice? With what weapons and what guarantees? Leave us your opinion in the comments!

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