(Meet again : Takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk: “a risk for democracy”, according to Emmanuelle Patry
The richest man in the world
Before the takeover of the platform, which has a few hundred million regular users, it is mainly as the leader of Tesla that Elon Musk is known. Since 2008, the billionaire from South Africa has been at the head of this company, the world’s leading manufacturer of electric vehicles. The businessman has built his speech combining environment and market.
Tesla’s mission is ” accelerate the global transition to a sustainable energy pattern “, he likes to repeat. Above all, Tesla is a huge financial success, breaking profit records.
At fifty, Elon Musk is now the richest man in the world, ahead of Jezz Bezos. His fortune is estimated at $219 billion by Forbes, inflated by Tesla’s recent large stock market valuations. The company distinguishes itself above all by the enthusiasm of the markets, more than by the volume of vehicles sold, unlike the large traditional car manufacturers.
The valuation of Testla exceeded 780 billion dollars in 2021 for a turnover of 50 billion dollars, a relatively modest figure compared to the other giants of the sector.
But the businessman’s plans don’t stop at electric cars. As the British media group National World noted, “ unlike most other billionaires, Elon Musk made most of his fortune by founding and investing in several lucrative businesses rather than having just one big hit, like Jeff Bezos with Amazon or Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook.. »
Colonizing Mars: a titanic project
Its ambitions are thus extra-planetary. Founder of the SpaceX company in 2002, the entrepreneur is indeed aiming for space colonization, with Mars in sight. It’s one of the crazy projects he’s most famous for today.
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For several years, it has multiplied announcements about its more or less realistic objectives of installing human bases on the planet. In the meantime, SpaceX became in 2020 the first private company in the world to send astronauts into space, in partnership with NASA. It was a technological innovation that marked the success of the company: the development of the reusable rocket, which allowed it to stand out from its competitors and lower the costs of accessing space.
With regard to Mars, the realization of the fantasy promises to be more complicated. In addition to the technological and human barriers, the sum necessary to carry out this journey is titanic. ” Right now you couldn’t get to Mars with $1 trillion. No amount of money could get you to Mars. We need to make it actually possible “, he had advanced in an interview.
Last March, however, he promised 2029 as the completion date for the project. Elon Musk even said he wanted to die on the red planet, taking part in the trip himself.
More broadly, Elon Musk promises the development of space tourism, aimed at the ultra-rich. SpaceX’s first trips were organized in September 2021. Ticket cost: several tens of millions of dollars.
For critics of the billionaire, this is one of the elements that pose a problem. Energy waste, indecent inequalities, pollution, danger… The competition in this field, in particular with the boss of Amazon Jeff Bezoz, is strongly criticized.
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On the contrary, Elon Musk claims to revolutionize humanity, even save it, through his futuristic projects. According to him, it is running to its loss, threatened by global warming or other catastrophes, and the conquest of space could embody one of its hopes for redemption.
And the capital he has amassed, notably thanks to Tesla, allows him to invest in this type of personal adventure. This is the case, for example, of the start-up Neuralink, which he co-founded in 2016, and which aims to directly link the human mind to the computer. This includes creating electronic components that can be integrated into the brain.
Apart from his space adventures, the Canadian-American businessman is indeed famous for his pharaonic ambitions. Its objective is to develop networks of tunnels to avoid traffic jams in large cities such as Las Vegas or Los Angeles, by circulating automated Teslas there. The effectiveness of the project, costly and difficult, remains to be proven.
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Racial segregation at Tesla
A fortune at the expense of working conditions: Tesla was notably accused of racial segregation. A California state agency even filed a lawsuit against the company in February, citing ” hundreds of worker complaints “. The manufacturer had already been sentenced to a record fine of $ 137 million in 2021, for turning a blind eye to racial discrimination suffered by a former employee. Several women also testified that sexual harassment was tolerated within the company.
Outside his company, the businessman is also criticized for his opposition to unions or the taxation of the richest. He had also played down the Covid-19 pandemic, while leaving one of his factories open at the start of the health crisis.
“Person of the Year” for Time Magazine
The decision of Time to choose him as personality of the year 2021, calling him ” clown, genius, visionary, (…) showman “, has therefore been reviled in some media.
In his portrait, the Time looks back at the origins of his career. Elon Musk was born in 1971 into a wealthy family in Pretoria, apartheid South Africa – his family partly owned an emerald mine in Zambia. From the age of 17, the young man left for Canada for his studies, before quickly embarking on the foundation of small online businesses. It is in particular X.com, partially at the origin of Paypal, which will attract investors and sign its success. According to the newspaper, “instead of a set of smart and safe investments, he only made a few spectacularly risky investments“.
Some commentators believe that he borders on the extreme right ( alt right ), like Roger Kay, of Endpoint Technologies Associates, interviewed by AFP. Elon Musk was particularly close to former President Donald Trump, after criticizing his candidacy.
In any case, he moved Tesla from Democrat California to Texas Republican in 2021, opposed to the policies of the California governor. The conservative right has also welcomed its takeover of Twitter.
Contradictory positions on freedom of expression
Apart from his political positions, his personality and his protrusions on the networks attract criticism. On Twitter, where he has 85 million subscribers, he recently compared Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Adolf Hitler.
Elon Musk is generally considered a libertarian, that is to say a supporter of extreme liberalism and very limited state intervention, although he does not use the term himself. And as such, he finds Twitter’s moderation too harsh. The inclusiveness and freedom of expression on the platform, which he intends to preserve, would be “extremely important for the future of civilization“. However, some media recall that he himself has repeatedly sought to harm those who criticize him, ranging from defamation to the cancellation of Tesla orders, through waves of harassment by his fans against women journalists, underlines the French daily Le Monde. According to Bloomberg, Tesla had even asked Chinese authorities to block certain critical social media posts in the country.
In the meantime, he assured that he wanted to bring more freedom, more transparency and less spam to Twitter by becoming its owner.