On Twitter, “Elon Musk is learning the hard way to moderate content”

Elon Musk became head of Twitter with a simple watchword: everyone should be able to “to express oneself freely within the limits of the law”. The head of Tesla and SpaceX, an avowed libertarian, has repeatedly said he is one “free speech absolutist” and opponent of “censorship” run on social networks by the leaders of the giants i technology, accused of leaning to the left and of being hostile to the conservatives. But he is, despite himself, already learning the hard way of content moderation.

One case is emblematic: on November 20, Elon Musk restored the account of producer Kanye West, which was suspended in early October by Twitter due to remarks that were considered anti-Semitic. But the 1eh December, he had to suspend that account after Mr West, now a 2024 presidential candidate and close to neo-Nazi militants, posted a logo that mixed a Star of David, a Jewish symbol, with a swastika, a Nazi symbol. “His account has been suspended for inciting violence”, justified Mr. Musk, invoking one of the rare grounds for limiting free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

But ironically, this decision brought him immediate criticism in the name of the principles he defends: “As a free speech absolute, this ban is not right. Even if you strongly disagree with what Kanye West said, he did not break the law or call for violence.”, challenged the far-right YouTuber Tayler Hansen. “The image combining a swastika and a Star of David that achieved the suspension is not illegal. Far from it. Despite his ambitions for freedom of speech, Elon Musk made the choice to remove legal but terrible content », insisted American law professor Eric Goldman.

A little mischief

A nod to history: It is also in the name of the risk of real violence that in January 2021 Twitter, Facebook and YouTube banned Donald Trump, whose supporters had invaded the Capitol in Washington after he disputed the results of the presidential election … The suspension of the ex-president’s account, however, is the “symbol” of partisan censorship induced by the conservatives and by Mr. Musk, who also restored the ‘former president’s’ account.

Also read the analysis: Article reserved for our subscribers Moderation on Twitter: Elon Musk’s double talk and inconsistencies

Leaders of social networks did not fail to greet the neophyte with a touch of mischief: “Welcome to the wonderful world of finding the best compromise between moderation and freedom of speech”, tweeted the head of Meta Yann LeCunafter Mr Musk received a “lesson” from Emmanuel Macron about not letting problematic content spread.

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