But who is stopping Elon Musk from speaking?

In this issue of Numerama’s Rule 30 newsletter, journalist Lucie Ronfaut wonders about the accusations of censorship that Elon Musk is making with regard to Twitter, when he himself is one of the most audible voices there. .

This article is an excerpt from our weekly newsletter Rule30, published by Numerama. This is the issue of April 6, 2022. To subscribe for free, it’s here.

The old saying goes don’t feed the trolls. As a general rule, I don’t like this maxim, which is too often used to minimize cases of online harassment. But in the case of Elon Musk, I kind of agreed. When you’re the richest man in the world and you use your Twitter account to relay jokes about cannabis or the latest obsessions of the American far right, you deserve ignorance above all else. In any case, that was my opinion, until the day when Elon Musk wanted to buy Twitter.

If you haven’t followed this soap opera worthy of the series Succession (or some simpsonsat this stage I’m not sure), you will find a complete summary at Numerama. To sum up the matter, Elon Musk, leader of Tesla and SpaceX, has filed an offer to buy Twitter. He criticizes the social network, of which he is an avid user, of being managed in an opaque manner, in particular concerning its content recommendation algorithms and its moderation, deemed too strict and arbitrary. As pointed out The worldit is in fact as much an economic project as a political one.

For Elon Musk, social networks would be biased against conservatives

Elon Musk echoes a theory long defended by the American right and far right: the major social networks are biased against conservative Internet users, and therefore do not guarantee the sacrosanct freedom of expression online. Note that during this time, the same American right calls for the censorship of books in libraries and schools, on the pretext that they deal with subjects such as anti-racism, LGBT rights or sexuality.

Screenshot of Elon Musk in a YouTube interview // Source: YouTube/ Marques Brownlee

In short, this whole saga is absurd, and raises serious questions about the ability of the ultra-rich to get their hands on platforms which, even if they are private companies, remain means of communication on which many people in the world depend. And even if I am always happy that we debate online moderation, a subject essential to the proper functioning of the web, I ask myself the question: in what, exactly, is Elon Musk’s freedom of expression threatened? ?

In the United States, the question is particularly sensitive, and political. The first amendment of the constitution guarantees an absolutist vision of freedom of expression there. For example, hate speech is not illegal. This idea weighed heavily in the way the major web platforms were built, first designed to facilitate the sharing of content online, without any particular restriction, except to ban pornography or to fight against child pornography. (for more context, I recommend reading this interesting thread by former Reddit CEO Yishan Wong).

But the platforms have grown. They were quickly forced to put in place stricter rules than American laws, and to enforce them as best they could. Racist comments are still protected by the constitution, but are not allowed on Twitter. For legal (because many countries in the world have more restrictive laws on freedom of expression), moral, and… practical reasons. The first interest of a social network is that it is used by as many people as possible. What if anyone could threaten me with death on Twitter without me being able to at least complain about it, I probably wouldn’t spend so much time there.

“The problem is not to say that we have the right to criticize other people on social networks “, underlines the specialized site Techdirt about the fight of Elon Musk and his manifest lack of knowledge on the reality of online moderation. ” The problem is spam, abuse, threats of violence, dangerous misinformation, and more.” According to a recent study carried out by the IPSOS institute, 41% of French men and women have already experienced at least one situation of cyberviolence in their life. This proportion increases significantly if you are an LGBTQIA+ (85%) or racialized (71%) person. Moderating the web also means allowing all Internet users to exist online.

Of course, violence may be officially prohibited on social networks, but it remains a scourge. Because the major platforms do not put enough resources into it, but also because moderation is a complex subject, which requires nuance and (dare I!) a citizen debate. Instead, we must listen to Elon Musk, multi-billionaire followed by 82 million people on Twitter, several times directly or indirectly involved in cases of online harassment, to complain. But who prevents him from speaking?

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The press review of the week

OK boomers

On Instagram or YouTube, influencers (and especially influencers) over 50 are more and more numerous, to talk about travel, beauty, personal development, etc. A logical evolution, but also, sometimes, content that paradoxically makes old age invisible online, and serves as injunctions to always stay young. This is the subject of this interesting article by Numeramaread here.

AirStalk

Late last year, I wanted to talk about growing concerns about the use of AirTags, a GPS tracker marketed by Apple (for example to find lost keys), in cases of stalking and domestic violence. This survey of Vice reveals that at least 150 complaints related to AirTags have been filed with police departments in the United States in the past eight months, including fifty by women fearing they have been followed. Read more (in English) here.

Out!

Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) is a mythical video game, but also well known for its sexism and transphobia. Last year, on the occasion of the imminent arrival of the famous title on the next generation consoles, activists for LGBT rights asked Rockstar Games to modify certain sequences deemed transphobic in the game, in the context an increase in violence against trans people in real life. They and they have obviously been heard, because the content in question has disappeared from the reissues of GTA V, released last month. It is to be read at Numerama.

Exploding candies

Last week, Candy Crush celebrated its tenth anniversary. For the occasion, the author Payal Dhar tells us about her addiction to the famous mobile game, and especially how it helped her better manage her social anxiety, and her late diagnosis of autism. His testimonial, and that of other players for whom Candy Crush is an ally of their mental health, can be read at Input Mag (in English).

Something to read/watch/listen to/play

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If you’re not familiar with Lisa Hanawalt’s work, you’ve probably seen her horses. This American illustrator is best known to the general public for her work on bojack horseman (of which she is responsible for the design), or more recently the brilliant animated series Tuca & Bertie. She also co-hosts Baby Geniusesthe only audio podcast capable of making me laugh to tears several times per episode.

But before all that, Lisa Hanawalt has made a name for herself in the middle of independent American comics. I Want You is a collection of his early works, recently reissued thanks to his newfound fame. If you have already seen bojack horseman, you will find some of her graphic obsessions, especially horses (Lisa Hanawalt is a fan of horse riding in real life). For the rest, I Want You is a catch-all of sometimes disgusting, sometimes philosophical, and always very funny drawings, on the fact of being twenty years old, of being lost in your life and of going too much on the internet. Go figure why, I strongly identified with it.

I Want You, by Lisa Hanawalt, IMHO editions

The data transmitted through this form is intended for PressTiC Numerama, in its capacity as data controller. These data are processed with your consent for the purpose of sending you by e-mail news and information relating to the editorial content published on this site. You can oppose these e-mails at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe links present in each of them. For more information, you can consult our entire personal data processing policy.

You have a right of access, rectification, erasure, limitation, portability and opposition for legitimate reasons to personal data concerning you. To exercise one of these rights, please make your request via our dedicated rights exercise request form.


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