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Elon Musk, head of Tesla and SpaceX, has been increasingly controversial at the head of Twitter since the acquisition of the bluebird social network for 44 billion dollars at the end of October. It is no longer possible to count the number of feats: deletion of journalists’ accounts, banning users from publishing links to competing networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon…
Olivier Lascar, editor-in-chief of the magazine’s digital department Science and Future and author of the book Investigation of Elon Musk, the man who defies scienceat Éditions Alisio, answers our questions.
RFI: The latest achievement is that the richest man in the world asked on Twitter on Monday whether or not he should step down from managing Twitter. 57% of users answered yes. What future for Twitter in such conditions?
Olivier Lascar as Elon Musk done as usual. He’s fun. The poll of the day in which he asks whether or not he should leave the management of Twitter has already been decided, as a few weeks ago he had said that he would nominate someone to command Twitter operationally. So it’s charisma and Elon Musk has been doing a lot of charisma all the time on Twitter.
He bought the network saying he wanted to make it the banner of free speech. We see with the decisions of the last few days, in particular the banning of some journalists who said things that displeased him, that this story of defending freedom of expression was a bait, a screen. Elon Musk’s real project is political.
By buying Twitter, Elon Musk is doing what wealthy industrialists have always done, if I may say so, which is to buy the press in order to have a leverage on the general public and public debate. 🇧🇷 In the old days, we bought newspapers. We still buy them today. His enemy, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, bought the post of washington🇧🇷 Elon Musk buys his Twitter. He buys a social network because to be the Citizen Kane of the 21st century, it’s better to have digital than paper. But the project to acquire Twitter is eminently political. It is a way of lobbying to boost the development of its other industrial companies: Space X, Tesla and Neuralink.
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RFI : Is Elon Musk, being a very controversial Twitter boss, not hurting Tesla and Space X, because his image is tarnished?
Right now Elon Musk is hurting Tesla and Space X because of the way he handles Twitter and we’re seeing a character warm-up of sorts. He has always behaved like a troublemaker, an obstructor of finances and business, but here one gets the impression that he is losing control.
Elon Musk has always played the two-shot gun. That is, it shifts the debate to distant issues. He talks about the colonization of Mars, for example, which prevents him from talking about the real colonization that he does in low Earth orbit with his satellites from the famous Starlink network. With Twitter, he shifted gears by talking about freedom of expression, which made it possible not to talk about the fact that it was becoming a formidable lobbying tool for his other companies.
However, this technique is now reaching Twitter because it seems like it’s on fire and Elon Musk wasn’t used to being so much at the center of the world arena after all. He has been a public figure for twenty years, twenty years in the field of industry, technology and, I would say, science – even if Elon Musk’s quality as a scientist is questionable! But by buying Twitter, he became the protagonist of this digital agora. He did it on purpose because he has a very strong megalomaniac side, so he wanted to be at the center of conversations. Obviously, this has gone to his head and this leads to mismanagement.
Musk, despite his way of doing things, which suggests that he improvises on a daily basis, is much more organized than he seems
Is there any risk of Elon Musk reselling Twitter?
Oliver Lascar: I don’t believe in a scenario where he sells Twitter. I think he’s going to step away from the day-to-day management of the site. This idea of selling or not selling the network that we played with a few weeks ago does not seem credible to me because Musk, despite his way of proceeding, which suggests that he improvises day after day, is much more organized than he seems. This is also visible when you look at the rest of their companies, where each technology responds to the other.
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For example, Starlink, that network that allows the web to come from the sky around the earth, could equip Mars tomorrow, as Elon Musk has the project to send people to Mars. With The Boring Company, he developed tunnel boring machines that bore high-speed, low-cost tunnels into land. He did it in Las Vegas, for example. These tunneling machines have exactly the diameter that would allow them to board the Starship rocket that the day after tomorrow would go to Mars.
Tunneling machines will be able to dig underground cavities that would accommodate possible astronauts, since we will not be able to live on the surface of the planet Mars because of cosmic radiation. So this impression of dispersion that Musk gives, here too, is a bait. That is, everything is very well organized like pieces of a puzzle that fit together.
However, what seems to me to be characteristic of Twitter is that it reveals how much Elon Musk, although he tweets at length that he wants to work for the well-being of humanity, has a distorted perception of humanity, because he lives in a bubble. He’s on the billionaire bubble, and with the acquisition of Twitter, he’s coming back down to earth. So I think we’re going to see a backlash. He will no longer run Twitter on a daily basis, but will remain the owner. We don’t buy a social network for $44 billion and burn it down in two months.
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