The surprising meeting between Emmanuel Macron and Elon Musk

Sent 3 Dec. 2022 at 8:57Updated Dec. 3 2022 at 9:13 am

Emmanuel Macron traveled to New Orleans, a city emblematic of historic Franco-American ties, on Friday to celebrate Francophonie and… meet Elon Musk. The interview had not previously been announced by the Elysée, and was kept away from the media.

Emmanuel Macron and Elon Musk were happy to exchange content moderation on Twitter, while the entrepreneur has so far made decisions largely contrary to the calls of the French president and other European leaders.

“Transparent conditions of use, significant strengthening of content distribution and protection of freedom of expression: Twitter must make an effort to comply with European rules,” the head of state added in a series of tweets. He also said he discussed with the Tesla co-founder “future green industrial projects, such as the production of electric vehicles and batteries”.

“It was an honor to see you again”, replied Elon Musk, saying he was “impatient” with “exciting projects in France”.

The richest man in the world bought Twitter at the end of October for 44 billion dollars. Its absolutist vision of free speech worries many users, authorities and advertisers, who fear a wave of hate and misinformation. “Elon Musk has confirmed Twitter’s participation in the Christchurch Call. Terrorist and violent content has no place anywhere,” the French president detailed, referring to an initiative launched by several states and NGOs in 2019, following the killings in Christchurch, New Zealand, whose images remained available online for several hours.

The businessman did not respond to this point. He had initially promised a content moderation board responsible for all major decisions, but he eventually decided to restore many accounts himself, starting with former US President Donald Trump’s, banned after the attack on the Capitol in January 2021.

Responsibilities and boundaries

He also put an end to the fight against false information linked to Covid, which is a “big problem”, according to Emmanuel Macron. “I think we should tackle the subject head-on, I am in favor of the exact opposite, more regulation. We do it (in France, editor’s note) and we do it on a European level,” he said on Thursday during an interview with the ABC channel.

Freedom of speech “carries responsibility and limits. You can’t go out and make racist or anti-Semitic remarks, that’s a point that’s important for me to defend,” he added.

Already on Wednesday, the EU commissioner for the internal market, Thierry Breton, had told Elon Musk that there was “still a huge amount of work to do”. Twitter will need to “significantly strengthen the moderation of content […] and decisively tackle misinformation,” he added, according to an account of their call center.

Moderate moderation

The new owner of Twitter has dismissed more than half of the employees of the Californian group, and the content moderation teams have not been spared.

According to several NGOs, including the Center for Countering Digital Hate, racist, homophobic, misogynistic and anti-Semitic messages have “shockingly” increased on the platform for a month. “Totally false,” Elon Musk tweeted in response to a New York Times article detailing the associations’ findings.

The account of the American rapper Kanye West has been suspended for “incitement to violence”, especially after the publication of admiring remarks about Hitler. And Elon Musk opposes the return of Alex Jones, the far-right US conspirator convicted of claiming a school massacre was just a staged show by anti-gunners. After experiencing the death of his first child, the multi-billionaire explained that he was “merciless to anyone who uses the death of children to (gain) financial, political or fame gains”.

Emmanuel Macron also ended his series of tweets by declaring: “We will work together with Twitter to improve the protection of children online. Elon Musk confirmed it to me today. Let’s better protect our children online! »


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