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Elon Musk, head of Tesla and SpaceX, has been increasingly controversial at the helm of Twitter since his acquisition of the social network from the blue bird for $44 billion at the end of October. We can no longer count the number of exploits: deletion of journalist accounts, prohibition of users to publish links to competing networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon…
Olivier Lascar, editor-in-chief of the magazine’s digital department Science and the Future and author of the book Investigating Elon Musk, the man who defies scienceat Éditions Alisio, answers our questions.
RFI: The latest stunt is that the richest man in the world asked on Twitter on Monday if he should leave the management of Twitter. 57% of users answered yes. What future for Twitter under such conditions?
Olivier Lascar as Elon Musk done as usual. He is a diversion. Today’s vote, in which he asks whether he should leave the management of Twitter or not, it has already been decided, since a few weeks ago he had said that he should appoint someone to run Twitter operationally. So it’s showmanship and Elon Musk has been doing a lot of showmanship all the time on Twitter.
He bought the network and said he wanted to make it the banner of free speech. We see with the decisions of recent days, especially the expulsion of certain journalists who had said things that did not please him, that this story of defending freedom of expression was a decoy, a screen. Elon Musk’s real project is political.
By buying Twitter, Elon Musk is doing what the wealthy industrialists have always done, if I may say so, which is to buy the press to influence the general public and the public debate. . In the past we bought newspapers. We still buy them today. His nemesis, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, bought washington post. Elon Musk buys Twitter from him. He buys a social network because being the one Citizen Kane of the 21st century, it is better to have digital than paper. But the project behind the takeover of Twitter is eminently political. It is a way of lobbying to push the development of its other industrial companies: Space X, Tesla and Neuralink.
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RFI : Is Elon Musk, who is a very controversial Twitter boss, not damaging Tesla and Space X because his image is tarnished?
Right now, Elon Musk is hurting Tesla and Space X because of the way he handles Twitter, and we’re seeing a kind of character warming. He has always behaved like a troublemaker, a filibuster of finance and business, but here you get the impression that he is losing control.
Elon Musk has always played a two-shot gun. That is, it moves the debate to distant questions. He talks, for example, about the colonization of Mars, which prevents talking about the actual colonization he is doing in low earth orbit with his satellites in the famous Starlink network. With Twitter, he shifted the discourse by talking about free speech, making it possible not to talk about the fact that it was becoming a formidable lobbying tool for his other companies.
However, this technique is now catching up with Twitter because it feels like it’s been on fire, and after all, Elon Musk wasn’t used to being so much at the center of the world stage. He has been a public figure for twenty years, twenty years in industry, technology and, I would say, science – even if Elon Musk’s quality as a scientist is questionable! But by buying Twitter, he became the protagonist of this digital agora. He did this on purpose because he has a very strong megalomaniac side so he wanted to be at the center of conversations. This obviously went to his head and it leads to management failure.
Musk, despite his way of doing things, which suggests that he improvises from day to day, is much more organized than it appears.
Are there any risks that Elon Musk will resell Twitter?
Olivier Lascar: I don’t believe in a scenario where he sells Twitter at all. I think he will step down from the day-to-day management of the site. This idea of sale or not of the network, which we have been playing for a few weeks, does not seem credible to me, because Musk, despite his way of walking, which suggests that he is improvising day by day, is much more organized than he doesn’t seem to. This is also visible when looking at the rest of their businesses, where each technology responds to each other.
►Also read: Twitter: “We’ve been living on the slide for 7 months”
For example, Starlink, this network that allows the web to come from the sky around the earth, can equip Mars tomorrow, as Elon Musk has the project to send people to Mars. With The Boring Company, he developed tunnel boring machines that bore high-speed and low-cost tunnels on land. He did it in Las Vegas, for example. These tunnel boring machines have exactly the diameter that would enable them to board the Starship rocket that would go to Mars the day after tomorrow.
The tunnel boring machines will be able to dig the underground cavities, which would make it possible to accommodate possible astronauts, since we will not be able to live on the surface of the planet Mars due to cosmic radiation. So this impression of spread that Musk gives, here too, is a lure. That is, everything is pretty well organized like pieces of a puzzle that fit together.
Nevertheless, what strikes me as distinctive about Twitter is that it reveals how much Elon Musk, even though he tweets at length about wanting to work for the welfare of humanity, has a distorted view of humanity because he lives in a bubble. He is in the billionaire bubble, and with the takeover of Twitter, he is coming down to earth. So I think we’re going to see a backslide. He will stop taking care of Twitter on a day-to-day basis, but will remain the owner. We don’t buy a $44 billion social network to burn it down in two months.
►Also read: After many escapades, Elon Musk pays Twitter