On student Elon Musk's report card, a teacher would probably write "can do better, but the intention was there." The announcement live on Twitter of the candidacy of Republican Ron DeSantis, Wednesday, May 24, was technically chaotic. Sound cut, parasitic noises, disconnections: the social network bought for $ 44 billion by Elon Musk failed to prove that it was up to such an event.
In contrast, the controversial billionaire managed to bring together more than 100,000 people at the same time on his platform for one of the major events on the political calendar of the American right.
Return of extremists and pledge to anti-Semites
For many commentators, this great mass 2.0 around the entry on the scene of Donald Trump's main conservative rival confirms the very right-wing turn of the social network, wanted by Elon Musk. "Twitter has become far right," says The Atlantic, while the New York Times points out that this is the culmination of Elon Musk's seduction operation against the most conservative Americans. "It seems that Twitter wants to take the place of Fox News [ultra-conservative American news channel, editor's note]," summarizes Vanity Fair magazine.
The platform offered by Elon Musk to Ron DeSantis, a politician who plays the card of populist one-upmanship against Donald Trump, is only the latest act of a right-wing Twitter.
>> Read also: United States: Ron DeSantis, from heir to rival of Donald Trump
The new boss of Twitter first let back many right-wing and far-right commentators who had been banned by the site's former management, starting with former President Donald Trump. Elon Musk then split several tweets flirting with the conspiracy dear to the far right.
Finally, the CEO of Tesla attacked George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist of Hungarian origin who is one of the favorite targets of anti-Semites. For them, George Soros represents the embodiment of the "rich Jew" (sic) who tries to pull the strings behind the scenes. By claiming on Twitter that this billionaire "hated humanity", Elon Musk "plays the game of these extremists", said the Anti-Defamation League, one of the main American NGOs fighting anti-Semitism.
And the American far right returned the courtesy. Tucker Carlson, the former Fox News star known for his promotion of the racist theory of the great replacement, has announced that he will launch a live show on Twitter. From May 30, the ultra-conservative site Daily Wire will host all of its podcasts on Twitter. It will be possible to listen live on the social network to the transphobic theories of commentator Matt Walsh and to follow the Islamophobic rantings of Ben Shapiro.
Ideologue or businessman?
All these clues suggest that the site has become toxic to American liberals. "There is no longer any reason to create an alternative 'right-wing' social network since Twitter assumes this role," said Charlie Warzel, a journalist on The Atlantic.
On the right, commentators assure that this is only a fair rebalancing after years of "witch hunts" of which they would have been victims on social networks. This right-wing idea that Twitter was a paradise for the American left before Elon Musk took the helm "is not based on any serious data or studies," said Meysam Alizadeh, a researcher at the Digital Democracy Lab in Zurich, where he works on the political use of social networks.
But this expert also believes that we should not conclude too quickly that Elon Musk is looking to establish a Fox News 2.0 with his social network. It is true that the measures taken by the new captain of the Twitter boat have "led to an increase in far-right hate speech, as demonstrated by two recent studies," admits Meysam Alizadeh.
"Celebrities on the right who have twitter accounts have also seen an increase in the number of followers, while the liberals have experienced a decline or stagnation in their audience," he said.
However, "if Elon Musk really sought to create a new 'Talk' [a clone of Twitter that tried and failed to become the social network of the American right, Editor's note], we should also see systematic discrimination against liberal and Democratic users, which is not the case," says Meysam Alizadeh.
>> Read also: "Talk", the Twitter of the American right or the new weapon of the Mercer family
For him, the boss of Twitter acts less as an ideologue than as a businessman. "It is clear that he wants to make the site more attractive to conservatives, which can be financially profitable," says Meysam Alizadeh. Indeed, advertisers love content that generates a lot of reactions... And the tweets that get the most reaction "are the ones that polarize opinion the most. They often come from far-right contributors, and so the more they are present, the more it could make the site attractive to advertisers," says the researcher.
Still, we must not go too far by scaring away liberal users. For Meysam Alizadeh, turning Twitter into a sanctuary for far-right Internet users would not make much economic sense. Advertisers would no longer benefit from this.
Yet, in actions and tweets, Elon Musk seems to make soft eyes only to conservatives. But he may not need to put much effort into holding back American liberals. After all, "there are no real alternatives," concludes Meysam Alizadeh. And the tool remains politically too important for officials on the left of the American political spectrum to afford to withdraw completely from this virtual agora.
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