Elon Musk amplifies disinformation on his social network Twitter

Elon Musk amplifies disinformation on his social network Twitter

Elon Musk had promised to make Twitter the “most trusted source of information,” but the billionaire appears to have instead amplified the voices of notorious spreaders of disinformation on the platform, according to analysis by AFP.

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Since arriving at the helm of the social network last October, Mr. Musk has repeated many conspiracy theories through his personal account, notably about the war in Ukraine or the aggression of the husband of Nancy Pelosi, former leader of the Democrats in the United States Congress .

Last week he responded to a netizen who wondered about the “mysterious” lack of flu cases during the coronavirus pandemic. “Good question,” commented the Twitter boss, who has repeatedly interacted with opponents of vaccination or expressed doubts about the severity of the health crisis.

This reply is thus part of a series of at least 40 exchanges with “KanekoaTheGreat”, a profile that regularly shares QAnon conspiracy theories with its more than 370,000 subscribers and whose author calls himself “revived by Elon” in his bio.

Thanks to data from the PolitiTweet site, which referenced content posted by public figures on Twitter before the latter restricted access, AFP was able to analyze thousands of messages published by Elon Musk between October 2022 and March.

In a few months, the billionaire shared a false article with the logo of the American media CNN or even assured that the police had escorted one of the attackers to the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 when it was false. More recently, it has also led to a discriminatory publication blaming people from the LGBT+ community for certain fatal shootings, a recurring scourge across the United States.

“We will quickly run out of “conspiracy theories” that will come true in the end!” he exclaimed in March. Mr Musk responded to a tweet in which he denounced as “lies” the information that the vaccine was an effective and safe solution to protect against Covid.

A few days later, however, SpaceX’s chief tweeted that the best way to combat misinformation was to “reply to it with proven facts.”

Mr Musk’s activities on Twitter are worrying, experts say, and not just because of his influence.

“Musk has almost 135 million subscribers, he’s also forced his engineers to increase the visibility of his tweets, so if he’s spreading misinformation, we should be concerned,” Brendan Nyhan, a professor and political scientist at the institute, told Dartmouth University’s AFP .

“But what worries me most is what these tweets reveal about the reasoning behind the decisions of a major social network,” he adds.

Researchers have recently uncovered changes made to Twitter by Elon Musk, such as: For example, paid certification and the recovery of some accounts previously banned from the platform have been linked to the resurgence of misinformation on the network.

Media analytics website NewsGuard has found that accounts paying for their certification are flooding the platform with false information.

Elon Musk, he adds, drawing even more attention to these reports.

A report released in January by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, an independent London counter-extremism laboratory, details the exploding exchanges between Musk and accounts that have been sharing far-right content since his Twitter acquisition — including accounts that had been spreading misinformation about the US election.

Among the Twitter boss’s most popular accounts is that of Ian Miles Cheong, a far-right blogger who received no fewer than 60 replies from Musk, according to analysis by AFP.

“Musk exposes the worst voices on Twitter,” says Brendan Nyhan, at the risk of “increasing the reach and importance of those accounts.”

At the request of AFP, the press service of Twitter only returned the expected automatic reply by email: an emoji in the form of excrement.