Elon Musk sinks into the culture war, while the social network lives on

Twitter is both a social media company and a crime scene “. This description comes not from an opponent of Twitter, but from its owner and leader, Elon Musk. The second richest man in the world says he wants to dig up Twitter’s darkest secrets » and revels in each new episode of «Twitter files “. Five outbreaks of “revelations”, mainly based on internal exchanges given by Elon Musk himself to conservative journalists and which were published on the platform. In a context where the leakage of advertisers threatens the financial health of the social network that he bought for $44 billion at the end of October, the businessman again acts as an arsonist, starting a fire and then positioning himself as the only one capable of putting it out.

While the features crucial to his vision of the economic model for Twitter – such as the new Twitter Blue subscription or the expansion of the number of characters in a tweet – are finally implemented after two months of waiting and numerous failures, the new draws attention by multiplying the polemic. After his conservatives came out – unsurprisingly – during the US mid-term elections in November, the businessman is disparaging the previous leadership to appeal to the American conservative right, whose most extreme remarks were previously more moderate. The billionaire thus sinks into ” culture war at the expense of any economic reasoning.

How Elon Musk is tipping Twitter and the economy into the post-truth era

The first few sections of the Twitter files are a wet grind

That “Twitter files » aim to reveal the suspected « censorship of the social network against American conservative figures. Donald Trump’s banishment due to the Capitol rebellion alone takes up two out of five threads of disclosures released so far. Their goal: to show that it is the result of an arbitrary decision by the leaders of the social network, and not an application of its policy of moderation, which, according to them, would not have been violated by the former president. .

L'” investigation ” thus reveals a perfectly legal decision, but considered immoral by the conservative fringe, which defends an absolutism of freedom of speech, that is, the absence of moderation as long as the laws are not broken. Nor does she care about the facts: the parliamentary inquiry into the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021 concluded that the former US president played an active role in their outbreak by publishing remarks that fall within the scope of incitement to riot, which is prohibited by law. In addition, Donald Trump -symbolically- has been impeachment “, including with the support of elected Republicans, for his role in this rebellion.

As detailed by CheckNews, the first episodes of “Twitter files is actually a wet firework. They only call “censorship” what was a matter of moderation. They explain that the social network had tools for limiting visibility in its moderation arsenal, which the company also showed publicly. Although the operation of these tools was not communicated, like account suspension decisions, Twitter simply applied its own rules and tried to comply with the law. The old Twitter was seen by regulators around the world as too ineffective to moderate hate speech.

These Twitter files should also be used to rehabilitate those who are banned from the network. These have in recent years sought refuge in a conservative community on platforms similar to Twitter but with much more lax moderation policies, such as Parler, Gab or Gettr. On the other hand, none of them managed to impose themselves. The most popular, Parler, would only have 725,000 monthly users, a far cry from Twitter’s more than 330 million. All these alternative networks hoped to find success by attracting Donald Trump – who had made Twitter his first communication tool – but the latter preferred to launch his own platform, Truth Social and maintain his exclusive presence there. As a result, even when Elon Musk rehabilitated his Twitter account after a quick public poll, Trump did not come back. This is not the case for many accounts banned by the previous administration that Elon Musk brought back, with many figures from the American right wing among them.

A “study” like no other

Although presented as such,Twitter files is not a study like any other. the terminology” cows ” Where “ papers , regularly used by journalists, refers to leaks of internal documents, generally provided by a whistleblower. For example, the Facebook files had been provided to the press by a former Facebook executive, Frances Haugen.

However, in case ofTwitter files “, the leak is not one, since the publication of the information is supported by Elon Musk. Another originality: the “investigations” are not published on a website or in a paper newspaper, but in the form of a series of tweets – “threads” – from journalists’ Twitter accounts. To support the remarks, we see recordings of moderation tools, email exchanges between managers, or excerpts from the internal Slack messaging system. Elon Musk mediates and comments actively threads with his personal account followed by 121 million subscribers. So far, neither the details nor the amount of information made available to the various journalists working on the subject have been revealed. Some people like Jack Dorsey asked opening of documents to the public so that all may judge, but they have not been heard.

The authors share a common point: all are considered predominantly conservative and anti-media mainstream (name given to mainstream media such as New York Timesto Elon Musk regularly takes pour goal). The journalists behind the first two waves of “Twitter files ”, Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss, for example, are former greats of The Rolling Stones and New York Times, now referred to as “defectors”. After leaving their respective newsrooms due to their anti-vaccine and/or transphobic positions, they each launched an independent newsletter on Substack [une plateforme spécialisée dans ce format, ndlr]. They are now preparing the joint launch of a new medium, The free pressa company built on the ideals that were once the foundation of American journalism “.

Did Elon Musk shoot himself in the foot?

Since “Twitter files “, the communication of Elon Musk is becoming more and more conservative. So much so that on December 11, tweeted the billionaireMy pronouns are sue / Fauci “. This cryptic message is a double attack. On the one hand, he targets Anthony Fauci, doctor of immunology and advisor to the White House on the handling of the Covid pandemic. The latter is a central figure in the conspiracy theories of American antivaccines, without that any of the allegations against him have been proven.

On the other hand, the tweet is a tease for the LGBT+ community: more and more people indicate the pronouns by which they should be addressed (eg he/him or she/her). This annotation aims, among other things, to give transgender people the opportunity to be gendered correctly. An idea that greatly displeases the conservative right, in the United States as in France.

Since this post, the Twitter director has made further reference to Covid and “wokists“. In short, he fully assumes to be part of the hard right, while defining himself as “neither left nor right”. The problem is that this political turn hardly seems compatible with the financial difficulties of Twitter A couple weeks earlier, Elon Musk was in the middle of seducing advertisers who feared a resurgence of hate speech thanks to the new moderation policy. Instead of providing guarantees against this scenario, the billionaire is giving new reasons to worry and distracting from the real opportunities for Twitter Elon Musk wanted to highlight his network as the main channel for discussing third halves of the World Cup, but this message is lost in the flow of discussions on the Twitter files.

At the same time, Tesla’s share price has lost more than 25% of its value since taking over management at Twitter, and this rate is more than 50% compared to the beginning of the year. Instead of standing by the electric car company that is crucial to his fortune, Elon Musk is waging a political battle, questioning the very platform he just bought. And if the revelations ofTwitter files » turn out to be as shocking as advertised, so the billionaire will attract the attention of regulators and risk fines…

But in any case, by flirting with the hard right, the businessman will have to redouble his efforts to convince advertisers to stay. Especially since he has just personally challenged his last moderation boss Yoel Roth in addition to disbanding an advisory body on moderation…