Who is Elon Musk, the limitless billionaire who just bought Twitter?

I hope even my worst critics stay on Twitter because that’s what free speech is all about. “, said Elon Musk, on the day of the announcement of his agreement for the controversial acquisition of the social network. Like each of his interventions on the site, his intervention attracted millions of likes and thousands of insults. The entrepreneur remains one of the most followed – and criticized – personalities on Twitter.

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The richest man in the world

Before the acquisition 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 South African billionaire has been at the head of this company, a world leader in the manufacture of electric vehicles. The businessman built his speech by combining the environment and the 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 net worth is estimated at $219 billion by Forbes, inflated by Tesla’s recent big stock market valuations. The company is distinguished above all by the enthusiasm of the markets, more than by the volume of vehicles sold, unlike the big traditional car manufacturers.

Testla’s valuation exceeded US$780 billion in 2021 for a turnover of US$50 billion, a relatively modest figure compared to the other giants in the sector.

But the businessman’s plans do not stop with 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 multiple profitable businesses rather than having just one wild success, like Jeff Bezos with Amazon or Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook.. »

Colonization of Mars: A Titanic Project

Its ambitions are therefore extraplanetary. Founder of the company SpaceX in 2002, the businessman really wants to colonize space, with Mars in sight. It’s one of the crazy projects he’s most famous for today.

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For several years, announcements have multiplied about their more or less realistic goals of installing human bases on the planet. Meanwhile, SpaceX became in 2020 the world’s first private company to send astronauts into space, in partnership with NASA. It was a technological innovation that marked the company’s success: the development of the reusable rocket, which allowed it to differentiate itself from the competition and lower the cost of access to space.

With regard to Mars, the realization of fantasy promises to be more complicated. In addition to technological and human barriers, the sum needed to undertake this journey is titanic. ” Right now, you couldn’t get to Mars on $1 trillion. No amount of money could get you to Mars. We really need to make this possible. “, he said in an interview.

Last March, however, he promised 2029 as the project’s completion date. Elon Musk even said that he wanted to die on the red planet, participating in the trip himself.
More broadly, Elon Musk promises the development of space tourism, aimed at the ultra-rich. The first SpaceX trips were organized in September 2021. Ticket cost: several tens of millions of dollars.

For the billionaire’s critics, this is one of the elements that pose a problem. Waste of energy, indecent inequalities, pollution, danger… Competition in this field, in particular with Amazon boss Jeff Bezoz, is heavily criticized.

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“Revolutionizing Humanity”

On the contrary, Elon Musk claims to revolutionize humanity, even save it, through his futuristic projects. According to him, it is running towards harm, threatened by global warming or other catastrophes, and the conquest of space may embody one of its hopes for redemption.

And the capital he has accumulated, namely 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 intends to directly link the human mind to the computer. This includes creating electronic components that can be integrated into the brain.

In addition to his space adventures, the Canadian-American businessman is famous for his pharaonic ambitions. His objective is to develop networks of tunnels to avoid traffic jams in big cities like Las Vegas or Los Angeles, circulating automated Teslas there. The effectiveness of the expensive and difficult project has yet to be proven.

(Find again: Technology: Elon Musk unveils his Neuralink brain-machine interface

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 complaints from workers “. The manufacturer had already been sentenced to a record fine of US$ 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 the company, the businessman is also criticized for opposing unions or the taxation of the richest. He also played down the Covid-19 pandemic by leaving one of his factories open at the start of the health crisis.

“Person of the Year” for Time Magazine

The decision to Time to choose him as the 2021 Person of the Year, calling him ” clown, genius, visionary, (…) show man “, was therefore insulted in some media.

In his portrait, the Time recalls 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 to study, before quickly embarking on founding small online businesses. It is X.com in particular, partly at the origin of Paypal, which will attract investors and underwrite its success. According to the newspaper, “instead of a set of smart, safe investments, he made just a few spectacularly risky investments.“.

Some commentators believe he borders on the extreme right ( Alt Right ), as Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies Associates, interviewed by AFP. Elon Musk has been particularly close with former President Donald Trump after criticizing his candidacy.

Anyway, he changed Tesla from California Democrat to Texas Republican in 2021, opposing the California Governor’s policies. The conservative right also welcomed the takeover of Twitter.

Contradictory positions on freedom of expression

In addition to his political positions, his personality and his protuberances 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, i.e. an advocate of extreme liberalism and very limited state intervention, although he himself does not use the term. And as such, he finds Twitter’s moderation too harsh. Inclusivity and freedom of expression on the platform, which he intends to preserve, would be “extremely important for the future of civilization“. However, some media remember that he himself has repeatedly sought to harm those who criticize him, from defamation to the cancellation of Tesla orders, passing through waves of harassment by his fans against women journalists, underlines the French daily Le Monde According to Bloomberg, Tesla has even asked Chinese authorities to block certain critical social media posts in the country.

However, he assured that he wanted to bring more freedom, more transparency and less spam to Twitter by becoming its owner.

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