While Elon Musk bought Twitter for 44 billion dollars, what could this change for Africa? The SpaceX boss is banking on unrestricted freedom of expression.
It's the end of one era, and the beginning of another. South African Elon Musk has just announced that he has bought Twitter for 44 billion dollars. The network, created by Jack Dorsey, therefore changes hands after a difficult year in Africa. Indeed, last June, the social network had a dispute with Nigeria after deleting a tweet from President Buhari. The latter had then suspended Twitter in his country before starting negotiations with the American company.
Will the arrival of Elon Musk change Twitter policy? The new owner of the platform in any case announced the color at the time of the takeover: "Freedom of expression is the foundation of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital public square where vital subjects for the future of humanity are being debated," Elon Musk said in a statement.
And on the side of freedom of expression, Twitter will have to start its revolution and make people forget Jack Dorsey. The latter had African ambitions, since he wanted to develop Square Crypto, an initiative that aims to strengthen the bitcoin ecosystem on the African continent, but the ex-Twitter boss had also demonstrated a "neocolonialism" that does not did not like: Dorsey had indeed committed himself politically against several regimes in Africa by supporting the Nigerian social movement #EndSars for example.
More freedom, fewer bans?
What about Elon Musk? Last February, the SpaceX boss announced his intention to launch Starlink, its high-speed satellite internet service, in Africa. But with Twitter, the aim is certainly more political than economic, because the social network never really paid off for its founders. Twitter "will not thrive or fulfill its societal mission — to understand its free speech mission — in its current form," Elon Musk said in a letter in early April.
But in fact, does Musk really have a new mission of general interest? “Elon Musk has a political project behind his head. He is at the head of companies that are technologically at the forefront of what can be done. (…) In the past, Elon Musk has already demonstrated that freedom of expression has its limits in its conception”, assures Olivier Lascar, author of the book “Investigation of Elon Musk: The man who defies science”. For the journalist, seeing today Musk “taking the position of the defender of freedom of expression, it seems a little excessive. It feels like what he wants is the freedom to say just about anything."
If the takeover of Twitter will therefore necessarily serve the interests of Elon Musk, the businessman could be good news for many African users. The social network has already censored several diets - Ugandan and Tanzanian in particular - and is regularly accused of pleading for such and such a cause. However, according to several persistent rumors, Musk could authorize all content on Twitter and prohibit account bans.