Social media platforms should not become billionaires’ playthings

“The world’s greatest fortunes used to buy media companies, but today’s billionaires want to take over social media,” said Vincent Berthier, head of RSF’s tech desk. “Why do they want to own these platforms? It is probably not out of concern for the general interest, out of a desire to promote access to freely reported, reliable and pluralistic information. Their takeover plans raise many questions. A fortune shouldn’t be able to influence how content is distributed online. Are we allowing a new generation of billionaires to fly their flag online without reacting?”

The social media platform Ye, the former Kanye West, has his eye on is Parler, a small platform loved by conservatives that claims to have 20 million users. As an independent candidate in the 2020 US presidential election, where he received barely visible votes, Ye now wants to defend freedom of speech.”conservative opinions‘ on social media, on the contrary, he says, by Mark Zuckerberg and his ‘left agenda’.

Yes’s statements echo some of the views expressed by two other billionaires. Former US President Donald Trump and the world’s richest man Elon Musk have both launched attacks on the online social media world in which their thirst for conquest has been politically motivated, at least in part.

The statements that accompanied the launch of Trump’s own platform truth social, in February 2022, dangerously implied that it was intended to serve as a sounding board for the former president’s own ideology. Musk, who is more subtle than Ye and Trump, has said he believes Twitter, over which he may soon gain complete control, will become a “left bias” Trouble.

Clearly, this trend could pose a threat to democracies and the proliferation of pluralistic news and information online.

There is currently no way to ensure these new tycoons won’t use their acquisitions to shape the minds of the millions of citizens who use their social media. But the interests of these citizens should come first, not the business interests or political goals of those who run the companies.

Communication platforms and especially social media shape the public debate. Therefore, even if they are privately owned, they should be committed to political, ideological and religious neutrality. Arbitrary decisions and political opportunism by social media operators cannot be tolerated, as it is not difficult to imagine that their users – a term all too often used to refer to those who are in fact citizens – consume vast amounts of Are exposed to content with a strong political orientation.

If Ye is interested in social media account moderation and its impact on the pluralism of opinions expressed, RSF recommends that he read the latest report from the Forum for Information and Democracy Accountability rules for social network accounts and their users. It recommends ways to harmonize moderation policies across platforms, regardless of their size, so they can protect both freedom of expression and access to information.

RSF contacted both Parler and Ye, but no one has responded to our questions so far.