Since billionaire Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, it seems that speech has been unleashed on the blue bird social network. “Twitter files”, locked accounts, regained visibility… But will there be a limit to the “freedom of expression” claimed by the American giant?
Whatever one thinks of Elon Musk and his plans to found a colony on Mars (SpaceX) or to implant chips in the human brain (Neuralink), the least that can be said is that the new owner from Twitter has lived up to his reputation as a libertarian and made good on his promise to unlock the whistling bird.
Back (almost) to normal
Just a month after the takeover of the American social network, many suspended accounts suddenly reappeared, the most famous of which is, of course, that of former US President Donald Trump, who was blacklisted from the platform since the storming of the Capitol in January 2021. Nevertheless less, not all accounts seem to be restored at the same speed, and some are getting a little impatient among censored scientists, media or other personalities. Let’s bet they’ll be unlocked soon…
HI @elonmusk ! This is the week you were supposed to restore our two media accounts @putsch_mag and @PutschMedia on @TwitterFrance unfairly suspended??? #censorship #Vox Populi vox dei #rendeznousPutsch #ELONMUSK Thanks for the RT!!! pic.twitter.com/bAQzvjnZSr
— Nicolas Vidal (@nicolasputsch) December 2, 2022
A year ago, researchers were suspended for saying:
🔸 Covid not deadlier than flu
🔸 No proof of the mask’s effect
🔸 No evidence of boosters
🔸 Myocarditis risk for Covid vax
These scientists are still suspended.
Vox Populi Vox dei, @elonmusk?
— Dr. Eli David (@Dr.EliDavid) 3 December 2022
Dr. Robert Malone is the co-inventor of mRNA vaccine technology. He was suspended for writing about the side effects of the Covid vaccine, which are established facts today.@elonmuskit is a shame that he and similar scientists remain suspended!#ReinstateScientists pic.twitter.com/vMZgIJQG68
— Dr. Eli David (@Dr.EliDavid) December 7, 2022
Other users who have so far been judged not to comply with the rules of the community (especially regarding the Covid crisis) have, for their part, been able to enjoy a return to normal, with renewed visibility and the number of followers has started to increase again . What the Twitter boss welcomes.
I notice that for a few days it seems to @twitter no longer delete subscribers?
Did you notice that too?@CaudeHenrion @StatChrisCotton @THEVENONPierri1 @provost_patrick @PavanVincent @louisfouch3 @MichelJeanDomi1 @mmtchi @marseille_jeff @EmmaDarles @dekoder_l
— Hélène Banoun (@BanounHelene) 4 December 2022
I thought exactly the same thing. My number of subscribers had only decreased since this summer, and in a few weeks there were 1500 more.
With the shadow algorithms removed and the bots removed, we should see who wins and who loses 😉
— Decode eco (@decoder_l) 5 December 2022
So many interesting posts on Twitter these days!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 5 December 2022
At the other end of the spectrum, disaffected Twitterers jumped ship shortly after the takeover, in disagreement with the new captain. It’s fair game.
Red card for Kanye West
However, Elon Musk’s libertarianism was quickly confronted with its limit with the case of the rapper Kanye West, whose repeated anti-Semitic or Nazi remarks had already earned him a suspension. When he arrived at the helm of Twitter, the billionaire had recovered his account like so many others. First, the American rapper immediately resumed with a vengeance (and not only on Twitter). His latest post, a photo of a swastika intertwined with the Star of David, forced Elon Musk to step out of the way and wave the red card by immediately suspending the singer’s account on December 2. “I did what I could,” he tweeted in the comments. Despite this, he has [Kanye West] again violated our rule on incitement to violence”.
I tried my best. Despite that, he again violated our rule against incitement to violence. Account will be suspended.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 2, 2022
This radical decision apparently sometimes provoked very strong reactions among subscribers, some criticized Musk for having a double discourse on freedom of speech and allowing himself to change the rules as he sees fit. In any case, it is proof that it also has its limits.
Nevertheless, Elon Musk continues to bet on freedom, not only freedom of speech, but also access to accounts and remains convinced that this plays in favor of natural moderation, noting that the more users there are on Twitter, the less hate speech has reached a point where positivity ultimately outweighs negativity. The experiment at least deserves to be carried out.
Hate Speech Impressions (Number of Tweet Views) Continues to Decline Despite Significant User Growth!@TwitterSafety will publish data weekly.
Freedom of speech does not mean reach. Negativity should and will have less reach than positivity. pic.twitter.com/36zl29rCSM
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 2, 2022
“Vox Populi vox dei”
It is also interesting to observe the a priori democratic use that Elon Musk makes of online opinion 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 vote to decide the fate of Donald Trump’s account. The “Yes” vote after winning by 51.8%, the account was reinstated. That said, since Musk has promised to restore it well before his actual takeover of the platform, one wonders what he would have done in the event of a negative outcome…
Recently there has been talk of another poll. The Twitter boss asked his followers 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 he will do with this result?
I am not expressing an opinion, but promised to complete this poll.
Should Assange and Snowden be forgiven?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 4 December 2022
The Disclosure of the “Twitter Files”
Another promise fulfilled by Elon Musk: transparency in the “Twitter files”. The revelations began last Friday with a series of tweets detailing how the New York Post’s October 2020 article on the Hunter Biden email affair was hampered by the platform. “Twitter took extraordinary steps to remove the article, removing links and issuing warnings that it may be ‘dangerous’. They even blocked its transmission via direct message, a tool until then reserved for extreme cases, such as child pornography,” wrote Matt Taibbi, one of the two journalists authorized to access the files.
18. Twitter took extraordinary steps to suppress the story, removing links and issuing warnings that it may be “unsafe.” They even blocked its transmission via direct message, a tool hitherto reserved for extreme cases, e.g. child pornography.
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) 3 December 2022
Without going into the details of this discussion thread, we learn in passing that requests to remove embarrassing content from one or the other of the two American political parties had become common over time. Not very balanced, though, with Democrats having more influence than Republicans on Twitter, and pouring massively more money into it.
10. Both parties had access to these tools. For example, requests from both the Trump White House and the Biden campaign were received and granted in 2020. However:
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 2, 2022
The “Twitter Files” series isn’t over, and other revelations are coming as the files are pried…
An inconvenient freedom
With Elon Musk, this era of censorship should be over. At least that’s his statement of intent. But this beautiful freedom, which he cherishes so much, is not to everyone’s taste, and certain political figures have already begun to cringe, at least in France and in Europe.
On December 1, the daily newspaper Le Monde published an article entitled “Twitter: Emmanuel Macron believes that the end of the fight against disinformation linked to Covid-19, decided by Elon Musk, is “a big problem”. The French president even specified that he was “in favor of the exact opposite, more regulation”. This has the advantage of being clear.
The day before, the EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, the Frenchman Thierry Breton, for his part, had declared that in order to comply with European rules in the fight against disinformation, Twitter must “significantly strengthen the moderation of content, protect freedom of expression and resolutely tackle disinformation”. Find the error! Faced with such antinomian speech, typical of the “at the same time” Macronian and current Newspeak, one can easily imagine Musk bursting into laughter. And we can bet that his choice has already been made: it will be freedom or nothing.