Elon Musk’s hyperactivity has struck again. In a Twitter release of which he has the secret, the boss of Tesla and SpaceX mentioned the possibility of launching his own social network to defend freedom of expression.
” Freedom of expression is necessary for the proper functioning of democracy. Do you think that Twitter rigorously respects this principle? asked the billionaire in a tweet, accompanied by a survey in which more than two million of his followerswhich more than 70% answered in the negative.
Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy.
Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 25, 2022
After an Internet user offered him to create his own platform, with an algorithm open-source and the priority given to respecting freedom of expression, Musk replied that he “ seriously thinking about it “.
Elon Musk, destroyer of censorship?
To further blur the line between joke and reality, he also endorsed the idea of another netizen suggesting that dogecoin could be part of how this new platform works. This cryptocurrency with a dog as an emblem, created as a joke, has become very fashionable despite the doubts of financial circles. Elon Musk has repeatedly had fun supporting her on social networks. In May 2021, he made the dogecoin jump with a sibylline tweet: “ how much is the Doge in the window worth? “, reference to a popular song about a dog (“dog” in English).
Nor is it the first time that the entrepreneur, who confided in 2011 to be ” rather libertarian ” to New Yorker, takes a public stand against censorship, and in particular that exercised by Twitter. In 2021, following the banishment of Donald Trump from the social network after the attack on the Capitol by his supporters, the billionaire had questioned the legitimacy of ” west coast tech elite (i.e. Silicon Valley) to be the arbiter of truth. At the beginning of March, he announced (still on Twitter) that his constellation Starlink had received pressure to block certain Russian information sources, and that he would refuse to do so unless forced to do so, in the name of the freedom of expression.
In February, he filed a complaint with the courts accusing the American authorities of putting him on political trial for having criticized the government and thus infringing the First Amendment, the guarantor of freedom of expression in the United States. This complaint follows several investigations opened by the SEC, the policeman of the American stock market, accusing Elon Musk of manipulating the stock prices of Tesla through his tweets, of which he is the founder. Last November, for example, Tesla shares fell 5% after its boss offered his followers to sell 10% of his shares to pay more taxes.
An already saturated market
If Elon Musk really intends to realize his project and finds the time to devote himself to it between Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink and The Boring Company, the task that awaits him is difficult. Many alternative social networks have been launched in the United States, mostly motivated by perceived excessive censorship by Twitter and Facebook. This is particularly the case with Gab, an Austin-based service, Parler, Gettr (launched by Jason Miller, a former spokesperson for Donald Trump) or Truth Social, a platform launched by the former president himself. last month.
But most are struggling to take off. Gab, for example, has about 4 million users, including 100,000 active users, far from the 200 million daily active users, known as monetizable, of Twitter.
There are several reasons to explain these difficulties. To take off, such platforms need a network effect, ie users will only be tempted to register and participate if a significant number of their relatives do the same. However, platforms like Facebook and Twitter, despite limited and occasional user leaks in times of scandals, occupy all the space, which leaves little room for alternative services to develop.
Consequently, these platforms, which for the most part defend freedom of expression, tend to attract marginal or extremist users, who have been banned from Twitter or Facebook following their behavior or their ideas. A reality that scares away many users and complicates the ability of its platforms to attract investors.
Finally, they also tend to bring together more politically homogeneous individuals (Gab, for example, is very popular with American Republicans). However, one of the attractions of platforms like Twitter is to be exposed to different points of view. Without the lure of verbal sparring and other tussles with opposing ideologies, many of these platforms prove somewhat boring compared to the social media heavyweights.