Between the establishment of a moderation committee and that of a paid certification, the billionaire, owner of the network for a week, seems launched in a double strategy vis-à-vis advertisers: first to reassure them, to then better remove them.
But what happens to the“free speech absolutist” ? Since April, Elon Musk has been multiplying the announcement effects on how he counts “to free” Censorship Twitter. During the seven-month saga of his $44 billion takeover, the Tesla boss raised the expectations of his supporters and the fears of his detractors. However, a week after becoming the owner of the network, the billionaire is confused. After announcing the establishment of a “moderation committee”, now Elon Musk is cashing in on his “freedom of speech” for the price of eight dollars a month to obtain a certified account on the network.
The fly that stung the boss of Tesla are the advertisers. Even though Elon Musk has managed to remove several executives from his company, he still has to play by the rules of advertisers. The reason ? They provide Twitter with 90% of its revenue. And the cavalier speeches of the businessman frightened many of them, not very enthusiastic about the idea of seeing their ads rub shoulders with possible sexist, racist, transphobic messages… New York Times reports that IPG, one of the largest advertising groups in the world, this week recommended that its customers temporarily suspend their spending on Twitter. The General Motors automotive group, a competitor of Tesla, did not need to be asked and announced on Saturday that it was withdrawing its advertisements until “understand the direction of the platform under its new owner“.
So to prevent others from following the movement, Elon Musk must reassure. While trying not to betray its initial promises. The man with 224 billion dollars of wealth according to Forbes thus spent the week shaking hands with advertising executives and civic advocacy groups. A seduction operation that he started on the eve of the official takeover of the network. In a statement to advertisers, he reiterated wanting to make the site “an online public space”. But conceded that the platform should not become “a hellish place where anything can be said without consequence”.
To do this, the entrepreneur – who had qualified as“mistake” the banishment of Donald Trump from the site – unveiled an unprecedented measure in the wake of the takeover. In a tweet, he therefore announced the creation of a “content moderation board made up of very diverse viewpoints” responsible for looking into suspended accounts. “No major decision regarding the content or the reinstatement of accounts will be made before the meeting of this council”he wrote.
But cuddle therapy sessions can’t last forever. In the long term, Elon Musk therefore has an option to emancipate himself from advertisers: change the economic model of Twitter, by increasing the share of income associated with “Twitter Blue”, the basic subscription currently available for 4.99 dollars per month. With a turnover of 1.18 billion dollars in the second quarter of 2022 – 28 times smaller than that of Meta – the company is struggling to generate cash via this formula. To remedy this, the bombastic multi-billionaire announced the end of the “present system of lords and peasants” which meant that some – politicians, journalists, companies… – benefited from certification by displaying a blue tick next to their name. To do this, he announced that it would henceforth suffice to pay to obtain a certified account, a guarantee of credibility and potential visibility.
For eight dollars per month (modulo the purchasing power of each country), “everyone” will therefore be able to have a little blue tick on their profile. But also sharing long videos, appearing in priority in searches, comments… Elon Musk would have other projects of the same ilk in his boxes. According to Numeramahe would also toy with the idea of authorizing the sale of tweets individually or that of sending a private message to a star for a few dollars.
Reviving the debate on the “free” social networks, the entrepreneur’s measures have since met with outcry. Starting with that of the elected American Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “Billionaire Is Seriously Trying To Sell People The Idea That ‘Free Speech’ Is Actually A Subscription Plan”, she tweeted. Before accusing Elon Musk on Thursday of having “blocked” its application following its criticisms. “It’s not very ‘freedom of expression'”she quips.