Musk also restricted the use of his Starlink satellite internet service in Ukraine and made statements that were interpreted as support for Russian claims to Ukrainian territory. Musk’s other company, Tesla, relies on China as a market, as a manufacturing center, and as a source of raw materials. anxiety that he could be pressured to cut or remove content critical of Beijing. In October, he was criticized for getting into China’s dispute over the future of Taiwan.
In the past, Twitter has been used to influence national politics in several countries. The keeper reported this week that an Israeli company used the platform to manipulate the results of the 27 elections. Under Mask, Twitter was also accused of being slow about a spate of disinformation about the Brazilian elections that ended in an attempted coup d’état.
Musk also directly tweeted disinformation himself. In January, he apologized for tweeting an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory about US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, who was attacked in their home in late 2022.
Neither Musk nor Twitter immediately responded to a request for comment.
Twitter has reportedly cut its government relations teams around the world, and it was the only major tech company not to submit a full disinformation report to the European Union as part of its voluntary disinformation rulebook this month. The apparent shutdown of Twitter’s press office also limits the company’s liability.
But while TikTok’s ability to change what users see has left politicians fighting for regulation, reaction to the change on Twitter has been muted. “The varying levels of outrage among politicians highlight both their hypocrisy and their low levels of media literacy,” said Stephen Buckley, lecturer in media and communications at City University London, who specializes in U.S. politics and social media. “Basically, there is very little difference between what TikTok is doing to promote posts and what Twitter is doing now.”
Agnes Venema, a national security and disinformation researcher at the University of Malta, says she thinks Musk is given more leeway because he is seen as a prankster when he manipulates a conversation while TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company Bytedance, is involved. in the geopolitical debate. . “I see a double standard when it comes to the outrage that TikTok is doing this while Musk is on his own merry way,” Venema says. “I’m guessing it’s at least partly due to security interests, since TikTok is Chinese, and the cult of personality around Musk.”
According to Cary Cooper, a professor of organizational psychology at the University of Manchester Business School, this cult of personality has helped Musk make sweeping decisions about how the platform works without much consideration. “He’s very similar to Trump in terms of his need for attention,” Cooper says. “He wants attention, and he needs attention as a person.”
However, Cooper doesn’t think Musk’s decisions have more than that. “He is a man who craves attention. A man just needs attention and adoration. I don’t think it’s disgusting.”
Venema says Musk’s use of algorithmic heating should be a wake-up call. Platforms have always manipulated what people see online to some degree, but it’s rarely that obvious.
“We all like to believe in this illusion that social media is actually a marketplace for ideas where anyone can get an audience,” she says. “Musk is in some ways instrumental in lifting the curtain and showing that some people are actually given a megaphone and others are not.”