Since the purchase of Twitter by billionaire Elon Musk, speech seems to be free on the social network with the blue bird. “Twitter files”, unblocked accounts, new visibility… But will there be a limit to the “free speech” claimed by the American giant ?
Whatever one thinks of Elon Musk and his plans to found a colony on Mars (SpaceX) or implant chips in the human brain (Neuralink), the least one can say is that the new owner of Twitter is living up to his reputation as a libertarian and has kept his promise to unlock the whistle bird.
Back to normal (almost)
Just one month after the takeover of the American social network, many suspended accounts have suddenly reappeared, the most famous of them being of course that of the former president of the United States, Donald Trump, blacklisted from the platform since the assault on the Capitol in January 2021. Nevertheless, not all accounts seem to be restored at the same speed and some of the censored scientists, media and other personalities are getting a little impatient. Let’s bet that they will be unblocked soon…
HELLO @elonmusk ! C'est bien cette semaine que tu devais rétablir nos deux comptes médias @putsch_mag et @PutschMedia sur @TwitterFrance injustement suspendus ??? #censure #VoxPopuliVoxDei #rendeznousPutsch #ELONMUSK Merci de RT !!! pic.twitter.com/bAQzvjnZSr
— Nicolas Vidal (@nicolasputsch) December 2, 2022
A year ago, scientists were suspended for saying:
🔸 Covid not deadlier than flu
🔸 No evidence for mask efficacy
🔸 No evidence for boosters
🔸 Myocarditis risk for Covid vax
These scientists are still suspended.
Vox populi vox dei, @elonmusk?
— Dr. Eli David (@DrEliDavid) December 3, 2022
Dr. Robert Malone is the co-inventor of mRNA vaccine technology. He got suspended for writing about side effects of Covid vaccine, which are established facts today.@elonmusk, it's a shame that he and similar scientists remain suspended!#ReinstateScientists pic.twitter.com/vMZgIJQG68
— Dr. Eli David (@DrEliDavid) December 7, 2022
Other users, whose opinions until then were considered not in accordance with the rules of the community (especially regarding the Covid crisis), were able to rejoice in a return to normalcy, with renewed visibility and an increase in the number of followers. What the boss of Twitter is happy about.
je note que depuis quelques jours on dirait que @twitter ne supprime plus d'abonnés?
Vous avez aussi remarqué?@CaudeHenrion @StatChrisCotton @THEVENONPierri1 @provost_patrick @PavanVincent @louisfouch3 @MichelJeanDomi1 @mmtchi @marseille_jeff @EmmaDarles @decoder_l
— Hélène Banoun (@BanounHelene) December 4, 2022
So many interesting posts on Twitter these days!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 5, 2022
At the other end of the spectrum, disgruntled Twittos jumped ship shortly after the takeover, in a sign of disagreement with the new captain. This is fair game.
Red card for Kanye West
However, Elon Musk’s libertarianism quickly came up against its limit with the case of rapper Kanye West, whose repeated anti-Semitic or Nazi comments had already earned him a suspension. When he took over Twitter, the billionaire reinstated his account like many others. However, the American rapper immediately started again (and not only on Twitter). His latest publication, a photo of a swastika intertwined with the Star of David, forced Elon Musk to come out of his reserve and brandish the red card by immediately suspending the account of the singer on December 2. “I did what I could,” he tweeted in a comment. Despite this, he [Kanye West] has again violated our rule on inciting violence.”
ELON FIX KANYE PLEASE
— Alex 🃏🏝 (@TheeAleexJ) December 2, 2022
This radical decision has obviously provoked some very strong reactions among subscribers, some of whom reproach Musk for having a double discourse on freedom of expression, allowing himself to change the rules as he sees fit. In any case, this proves that he too has his limits.
Nevertheless, Elon Musk continues to bet on freedom, not only of expression, but also of access to accounts, and remains convinced that this plays in favor of a natural moderation, noting that the more users there are on Twitter, the less hate speech has a reach, with positivity ultimately winning over negativity. The experiment is at least worth doing.
Hate speech impressions (# of times tweet was viewed) continue to decline, despite significant user growth!@TwitterSafety will publish data weekly.
Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom of reach. Negativity should & will get less reach than positivity. pic.twitter.com/36zl29rCSM
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 2, 2022
“Vox populi, vox Dei
It is also interesting to observe Elon Musk’s a priori democratic use of online polls to make certain decisions. “Vox populi, vox Dei” (the voice of the people is the voice of God) he announced to his subscribers at the time of the poll to decide the fate of Donald Trump’s account. The “yes” having won by 51.8%, the account was reinstated. That said, Musk had committed to reinstate it well before his actual takeover of the platform, so one wonders what he would have done in case of a negative result…
More recently, another survey has been in the news. The Twitter boss asked his subscribers if they wanted Julian Assange and Edward Snowden to be pardoned. At the time of writing, the answer is 80.5% “yes” with more than 3.3 million voters! But who knows what will be done with this result?
I am not expressing an opinion, but did promise to conduct this poll.
Should Assange and Snowden be pardoned?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 4, 2022
The revelation of the “Twitter files
Another promise honored by Elon Musk: transparency on the “Twitter files”. The revelations began last Friday with a series of tweets explaining how the dissemination of the New York Post’s October 2020 article on the Hunter Biden email affair had been impeded by the platform. “Twitter took extraordinary steps to remove the article, removing links and posting warnings that it could be “dangerous.” They even blocked its transmission via direct message, a tool previously reserved for extreme cases, such as child pornography,” wrote Matt Taibbi, one of two journalists granted access to the records.
17. On October 14, 2020, the New York Post published BIDEN SECRET EMAILS, an expose based on the contents of Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop: https://t.co/q4zaMw6aVV
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 3, 2022
Without going into the details of this thread, we learn in passing that requests for the deletion of embarrassing content by one or other of the two American political parties had become commonplace over time. In a not very balanced way, however, the Democrats having more influence than the Republicans within Twitter, because they pay it massively more money.
9. Celebrities and unknowns alike could be removed or reviewed at the behest of a political party: pic.twitter.com/4uzkHnQ65E
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 2, 2022
The soap opera of the “Twitter files” is not over and other revelations are to come as the files are peeled off…
A freedom that disturbs
With Elon Musk, this era of censorship should be over. At least that’s what he says. But this beautiful freedom that he cherishes so much is not to everyone’s taste and some political figures have already started to grind their teeth, at least in France and in Europe.
On December 1, the daily Le Monde published an article entitled “Twitter: Emmanuel Macron believes that the end of the fight against disinformation related to Covid-19, decided by Elon Musk, is “a big problem“. The French president even clarified that he was “in favor of the exact opposite, more regulation.” This has the merit of being clear.
The day before, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton of France, said that in order to comply with European rules on the fight against disinformation, Twitter must “significantly strengthen content moderation, protect freedom of expression and tackle disinformation with determination. Look for the error! Faced with such an antinomic figure of speech, typical of the Macronian “at the same time” and of the current novlanguage, one can easily imagine Musk bursting out laughing. And we can bet that his choice is already made: it will be freedom or nothing.