After the acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk, the richest man on the planet, many users left the social network. Some stars left the United States with a farewell tweet. “I have no intention of hanging around to see what Elon is up to. Goodbye”, written by Shonda Rhimes who created the Grey’s Anatomy series. Some have yet to come forward but have expressed doubts, even here in France like government spokesman Olivier Véran.
For Christophe, the question is whether to stay or not. “We are a bit shocked by the attitude of the new owner”explains this teacher who uses Twitter in her CM2 class for various spelling exercises or media education. “It’s a bit far from the school’s values. For us, freedom of expression is respecting the law and it doesn’t have the right to say everything.” In the meantime, Christophe created an account on the social network Mastodon, a platform without advertising, decentralized on different servers, different bodies each responsible for content moderation. It’s still quite a confidential network, not very user-friendly. But who got 230,000 users within a week after Elon Musk took over Twitter.
A regulated freedom of expression in Europe
Elon Musk is a staunch defender of freedom of expression within the meaning of the first amendment of the American Constitution which prohibits Congress from any freedom of speech. It could relax the social network’s moderation rules, which would mean hateful content wouldn’t be deleted. But in Europe, there is a “Digital Services Act” (DSA) regulation that obliges platforms to remove certain content. Twitter should follow suit. Elon Musk “Twitter won’t cut it for Europe”underlined the Gilles Babinet.
But we can expect difficult periods. “When he fired half the staff, you realized that the moderation team was particularly affected. Twitter is not a company that makes cars. It’s something that has to do with democracy. The subject of content like this is not just about Twitter”insisted the co-president of the National Digital Council.
Can we fear misinformation?
Concern has also been raised about the certifications, these little blue badges next to the pseudonym, which are supposed to authenticate the author of the tweets. Elon Musk wants to pay for it: 8 dollars per month, which also allows access to certain features. Finally he retreated by suggesting a difference, the mention “official”, between the accounts that have already been authenticated and the next new subscribers of this formula.
Can we fear stronger attempts at disinformation? Not according to Fabrice Epelboin. “I have this famous blue dot. There is no verification of my identity in the same way as in the bank. Despite everything, it created a form of aristocracy on Twitter and people accidentally said that the messages issued by certified accounts have truth value. Which is an invention”believes this teacher and entrepreneur who specializes in social networks.
Main financial issue
By charging for certification, Elon Musk aims primarily to cover his costs. He bought this unprofitable social network for 44 billion euros and had to deal with the flight of some advertisers from the social network. “Advertising revenues do not bring enough money to each individual to ensure adequate moderation. So Twitter, like all social networks, is judged if it wants to comply with the current requirements, to find of an economic model. Elon Musk’s solution is to charge users for a premium version”, studying Fabrice Epelboin. A strategy that also led to the brutal layoff of half of the social network’s 7,500 employees.
Therefore, the issue is not so much financial but above all political. Twitter is a great tool for gaining influence. The billionaire claimed at the time of the purchase to “free the blue bird”, the symbol of the social network and create a free public place to express all opinions. Serge Abiteboul took him literally and encouraged him to give more access to the social network’s data and source code. “Users can give the minimum thing about what kind of moderation they want, also about recommendations”detailed the computer science researcher at the National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology.
“The world we live in 20 or 30 years from now will be shaped by what happens with social media”
For the author of “We are the social networks” (ed. Odile Jacob) with Jean Cattan, we must take back Twitter. “The world we’re going to walk in 20 or 30 years from now will be shaped by what happens with social networks. All of society must handle this topic. And it can’t be a few business leaders deciding which world we will live in. in 20 years, or governments. We believe with Jean Cattan that it is up to all societies to manage and solve this problem”he explains.
The issue becomes democratic when we know the influence of social networks in various electoral campaigns in the world and in our societies. Twitter gave birth to hashtags such as Black Lives Matter or Me Too, which have had a lasting impact on our society.