When buying Twitter, Elon Musk wants to create a “huge app”: the X app. “It will be a great data capture system,” said Asma Mhalla, a professor at Sciences-Po Paris and Ecole polytechnique, on Wednesday in the RTS program Tout un monde.
“In addition to the exhibition around Elon Musk’s industrial project – his very capricious side, his incessant tweets and his trolling – there is the creation of the X app”, advances Asma Mhalla, professor at Sciences-Po Paris and at the ‘Polytechnic University.
What do we know about Application X? Elon Musk wants to be inspired by Chinese WeChat, creating a “huge app” with social networking, private messaging… projects including Starlink (satellite network to secure an internet connection, editor’s note🇧🇷
And to add: “In the very short term, there is a question of profitability. In the long term, Twitter is for Elon Musk a turnkey technological solution to develop his application X”.
If Elon Musk were to become a diplomatic thorn in the side of Joe Biden or another president, the United States has the coercive means, by law and institutions, to reshape him.
The X application project must be observed with “enormous vigilance”, not least because “it will be backed by the ideology” of Elon Musk. “Behind Musk, in various projects like SpaceX, is NASA or the Pentagon. So, in one way or another, there is always the American State as a contributor with an official public-private partnership or looking closely. The House Branca purposely does not react to Elon Musk’s statements about Ukraine, for example, so as not to give them a boost.”
However, if Elon Musk has become a “diplomatic thorn in the side” of Joe Biden or another president, “the United States has the coercive means, by law and institutions, to reshape him,” said Asma Mhalla.
Certification, a democratic tool
Elon Musk clarified his first big project on Tuesday: an $8-a-month subscription for users who want to have their account certified as authentic. Currently, only certain profiles can request this authenticity token, including governments, companies, media, political, cultural or sports personalities, etc.
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“In several authoritarian regimes, certification allows journalists, opponents or activists to certify that it is in fact their word and, therefore, not to be hacked by the government”, underlines the specialist in digital geopolitics.
The richest man in the world has repeated since the beginning of the acquisition of Twitter that he wants to strengthen freedom of expression in this “public square” essential to democracy, and that profitability is not his priority. “Since the Twitter takeover went official, there has been an explosion of anti-Semitic and conspiratorial comments and accounts,” she said. “The fachosphere has returned extremely virulently, including in Europe.”
Compared to Facebook, which has 3 billion users, Twitter and its 230 million accounts is a small social network. “Twitter’s strength is its prescriptive side in the media and political sphere. (…) For example, the trade war between Trump and China took place on Twitter. (…) With this purchase, Elon Musk also takes over greater media and political influence, but also the ability to set the agenda.”
With Twitter, Elon Musk achieves greater media and political influence, but also the possibility of setting the agenda
Asma Mhalla believes that the “same logic” exists with the concentration of traditional media in the hands of big industrialists like Vincent Bolloré. But if Twitter becomes a space for conspiracies, violence, cyberbullying, with Elon Musk adding fuel to the fire, we could see users defecting. Which would not be in the best interests of the new owner, she insists.
“Social networks are new weapons of war where wars and struggles for information are also fought. The ambivalence of social networks is that they are public spaces, even ‘militarized’. market and, in the case of Twitter, to Elon Musk himself.”
According to the professor at Sciences-Po Paris, public authorities must “take up the question very quickly”.
Interview by Eric Guevara-Frey
Web adaptation: Valentin Jordil