“Before, the wealthiest people in the world bought media, but now they want to take over social networks,” says Vincent Berthier, head of RSF’s Tech Desk. “Why do they want to own these platforms? This is probably not out of concern for the general interest, for the sake of promoting access to free, reliable and pluralistic information. Their recovery plans raise many questions. Having a fortune shouldn’t allow you to influence how content is distributed online. Are we going to let a new generation of wealthy businessmen plant their flag on the Internet without reacting?
The social media platform Ye, former Kanye West, has his eye on is Speaking, a small platform beloved by curators that claims to have 20 million users. Independent candidate in the 2020 US presidential election, where he garnered a barely visible number of votes, Ye now wants to defend freedom of expression »conservative viewson social networks, unlike, he says, Mark Zuckerberg and his “leftist agenda”.
Ye’s statements echo some of the opinions expressed by two other wealthy businessmen. Former US President Donald Trump and the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, have both launched assaults on the world of online social media in which their thirst for conquest has been driven, at least in part, by politics.
The statements that accompanied the launch of Trump’s own platform, Social truth, in February 2022, dangerously hinted that he should serve as a sounding board for the former president’s own ideology. Musk, who is more subtle than Ye and Trump, said he believes Twitter, over which he may soon gain full control, has a “left bias” problem.
This trend could clearly pose a threat to democracies and to the flow of pluralistic news and information online.
There is currently no way to ensure that these new tycoons don’t use their acquisitions to shape the opinions of the millions of citizens who use their social media. But it is the interests of these citizens that must come first, rather than the commercial interests or political objectives of those who run the companies.
Communication platforms, especially social media, shape public debate. That is why they should be required to observe political, ideological and religious neutrality, even if they are privately owned. Arbitrary decision-making and political opportunism by those who run social media should not be tolerated because it is not difficult to imagine that their users – a term too often used to refer to those who are in fact citizens – are subject to large amounts of content with a strong political bias. .
If Ye is interested in the moderation of accounts on social networks and its impact on the pluralism of opinions expressed, RSF recommends that he read the latest report of the Forum on Information and Democracy on Liability regimes for social media accounts and their users. It recommends ways to harmonize moderation policies across platforms of all sizes, allowing them to protect both freedom of expression and access to information.
RSF contacted the two Speaking and Ye, but none have yet answered our questions.