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Kanye West’s Twitter account suspended | Elon Musk faces the limits of absolute freedom of expression



(Paris) The Friday suspension of Kanye West’s Twitter account “for incitement to violence” reveals the limits of the absolute vision of freedom of expression advocated by Elon Musk since his takeover of the social network, according to experts interviewed by the AFP.

“Sorry, but you went too far, it’s not love”: after the publication of an image representing a swastika intertwined with a star of David, as well as admiring remarks for Hitler, the boss of Twitter cropped the famous American rapper in a private message.

“Who made you the judge”?, replied the one who is now called “Ye” defiantly, in this exchange that the artist made public.

A few hours later, Elon Musk announced his suspension from the social network “for incitement to violence”, in response to the image associating the symbols of the Nazi regime and Judaism posted by Kanye West, more and more isolated after his recent remarks anti-Semitic.

A sudden return to reality for the policy of moderation of the billionaire, who advocated since his arrival at the head of the platform in October an absolute vision of freedom of expression, believing that the latter should know almost no limits.


Kanye West

He even went so far as to consider, at the end of November, a “general amnesty” for suspended accounts, after having already rehabilitated that of former US President Donald Trump, banned from the microblogging network after the assault on the Capitol in Washington in January 2021.

“The problem is that Elon Musk has a half-hearted free speech philosophy. On the one hand, he speaks of total freedom of expression, on the other of respect for the law,” said Jacob Mchangama, a Danish lawyer specializing in issues related to freedom of expression and author of “ Free Speech: A History From Socrates to Social Media”.

“The best way forward is to empower users to filter more of what they don’t like, rather than having governments or big tech companies make those decisions at a centralized level,” he adds. .

” The tree that hides the forest ”

Because, from “the first weeks” after Elon Musk took power, “we saw a 25% to 30% increase in hateful content” on Twitter with the return of people who had been banned, notes with the Charles Cohen, co-founder of Bodyguard, a company specializing in protecting individuals from attacks on social media and moderating hate speech.

Despite “a slight return to normal” in recent days, “we are at ‘10% or’ 15% hateful content”, he notes, adding that Musk’s ideal vision of moderation on Twitter “doesn’t is not technically, economically or ethically viable”.

At the origin of massive layoffs within Twitter, the one who is also the boss of Tesla and SpaceX will be forced to step back, “because he will realize that he does not have the technological tools to do what he wants”, still believes the leader of Bobyguard

“The tree that hides the forest”, the suspension of Kanye West’s account highlights the risk of “double speed” moderation, to the detriment of “ordinary” people, warns Asma Mhalla, teacher at Sciences Po and Polytechnique , specialist in digital politics.

“Because Kanye West is very influential, you have a reactivity by Elon Musk “himself”. But that does not solve the basic problem: moderation on an industrial scale of the network which is completely insufficient today, ”she adds.

The European Commission has already issued a warning to Musk on Wednesday, recalling that the company must “significantly increase its efforts” if it wants to comply with European rules, in terms of moderation or the fight against misinformation.

At the commercial level, his approach has also cooled many brands, from General Motors to Pfizer, who have suspended their advertisements on the platform. However, its turnover depends 90% on advertising revenue.

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