A troll at the top of Twitter

When Canada declared a state of emergency to evict protesters from downtown Ottawa in February, an angry netizen tweeted a meme of Adolf Hitler1. “STOP COMPARING ME TO TRUDEAU,” the leader lamented. “I HAD A BUDGET. »

Posted at 5:00 am

Normally we would have rolled our eyes at the thought of “another troll” before moving on to the next tweet. This time, however, it wasn’t just any troll.

It was Elon Musk. The richest man in the world. The inscrutable billionaire boss of Tesla and SpaceX who seems to enjoy nothing more than stirring up controversy on Twitter.

He likes it so much that he bought the company…


PICTURE BY TWITTER

Elon Musk’s tweet about Justin Trudeau

His 83 million subscribers adore him. Before attacking Justin Trudeau, he had attacked a British caver, who unhappily told him in July 2018 that his rescue operation for children stuck in a cave in Thailand was doomed to failure. Elon Musk, furious, had called the poor man a pedophile without the slightest evidence.

Regardless, the dogs were unleashed.

Elon Musk also posted an unflattering photo of Bill Gates on Friday. “If you want to lose an erection fast,” he wrote. Proof, in case you were still in doubt, that having money doesn’t guarantee good manners.

After two weeks full of tension and twists and turns, the news fell on Monday afternoon: Yes, the top troll paid Twitter well, for the proud sum of 44 billion US dollars.

The businessman is already promising to free the blue bird from its cage and make Twitter a paradise for freedom of expression. Freedom without borders, without surveillance, without censorship.

And that’s not good news.

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Elon Musk hints he will dismantle Twitter’s content monitoring program. He is convinced that anyone on the platform should be able to say anything, even the worst nonsense, if they don’t hesitate.

“Freedom of expression is the basis of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital public space where important issues for the future of mankind are debated,” he said at the time of the interview.

He added that he wants to “make Twitter better than ever.”

That remains to be seen. In the meantime, it’s good to remember that Mark Zuckerberg wanted to make the world a better place, “more open and connected,” when he founded Facebook in a Harvard University dorm in 2004.

Facebook has done well. But not only that.

The platform has also become a gigantic dumping ground for hate and misinformation around the world. It provoked riots, riots, massacres. She made real sacrifices2 : Muslims killed in Nigeria, youths beaten to death in Mexico, men lynched in India…

In Burma, Facebook played a “pioneer role” in the crisis that led to the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, according to the United Nations.

In his college dorm, Mark Zuckerberg could not have known that he was creating a monster that neither he nor the planet’s governments could fully control.

But 18 years later we know.

We know we can’t let anyone say anything on a social network. We know that words are not without consequences.

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For two years, the pandemic has reminded us how bad misinformation is on the internet. Governments are pressuring Twitter and Facebook to find a way to stamp out the fake COVID-19 news plaguing them. With more or less success.

After all, Twitter has closed thousands of accounts, including that of Donald J. Trump.

Whether the new Twitter king will grant his pardon to the former president remains to be seen.

As Twitter tried as best it could to stem the flow of disinformation, Elon Musk raged at sanitation measures, which he described as “fascist.”

He repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic. He supported protesters who paralyzed downtown Ottawa. “Canadian Truckers Rule,” he tweeted before comparing Trudeau to Hitler.

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Therefore, in the hands of one man—this man—is one of the most amazing communications tools in the world.

An unpredictable billionaire, prone to mood swings. A man of phenomenal wealth who will answer to no one but himself.

Will he use Twitter for his own purposes? To attack his enemies? In any case, he wouldn’t be the first rich man to pay for a media company to represent his interests. “Elon Musk is a digital citizen Kane3 she wrote New York Times, based on the cinema classic inspired by press magnate William Randolph Hearst.

Compared to a traditional newspaper, the disruptive power of the social network is increased tenfold. It could go wrong. When there will be calls for violence on Twitter. Or when an autocrat uses the platform to put down a revolt.

So, like Citizen Kane, Elon Musk runs the risk of feeling very alone at the top.

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