Elon Musk, a “free speech absolutist,” seems to be making an exception for criticism directed at him.
On Monday, Twitter fired two engineers and publicly challenged Musk’s technical prowess, Bloomberg reported. The next day, Twitter reportedly fired more than 20 more people, who posted negatively about his Musk on the company’s internal messaging app Slack. According to platformer Casey Newton.
It is quite common for employees to be fired if they openly criticize their employer. First Amendment rights to free speech are generally not protected in the workplace. But these dismissals seem to contradict Musk’s self-identity as a free speech advocate. Musk got Twitter because he bought it with a mission to free her from moderating heavy-handed content that he felt unfairly censored users who expressed their beliefs.
“A good sign of whether you have free speech is whether someone you don’t like is allowed to say things you don’t like. If so, we have free speech.” ‘” Musk said at a TED event in April.
Musk has said he wants Twitter to become a more open “digital town square,” especially for conservatives like Trump.
Musk’s absolute version of free speech seems to have some limitations, with his own employees being the exception.
One recently fired Twitter employee, who spoke to Recode on the condition of anonymity, said that Musk’s firing meant he “wants complete freedom of speech only for himself and his supporters.” He said he was on the list of “light-skinned” leaders.
If you’ve been following Musk for a while, you won’t be surprised by the contradiction between his belief in free speech and his management style. In recent years, Musk has openly used his power as a billionaire and social media power user to stifle his critics. He threatened to organize Tesla workers, accused journalists of writing negative articles about his company of corruption, and attempted to shut down his Twitter account where he posted about his private whereabouts of his jet. , unsuccessfully offered his $5,000 to his teenager behind it.
Here are some of the many ways Musk seems to be undermining his commitment to free speech, both in his early days as Twitter CEO and in the past.
fire an employee who criticizes his leadership
One of the first rank-and-file employees Twitter reportedly fired after Elon began reigning at the company was an engineer known for posting cartoons about Twitter’s work culture on his blog. It was Manu Cornet.
Cornette said he wasn’t given a specific reason other than “recent behavior” for being fired, but by building a tool that could store work emails he could help his colleagues prepare for layoffs. He also personally delivered a printed copy of one of his comics to Musk at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco just days before he was fired.
The cartoon shows Musk smashing a statue of Twitter’s logo, with another character standing next to him saying, “You break it, you buy it!” . When Musk saw the cartoon, he reportedly told Cornet, “I just bought it.”
Days after Cornette was fired, Musk cut Twitter’s staff by 50%. Most recently, Twitter made cuts for employees who openly challenged Musk on Twitter and his Slack internally. According to The New York Times, in order to make targeted cuts, Musk’s team was asked to “combine messages” on Twitter’s internal communications system and “compile a list of employees who were under his control.” rice field.
Two of the recently fired employees publicly challenged Musk’s technical understanding of Twitter’s products.
Musk tweeted a complaint claiming that Twitter’s technical infrastructure was poorly designed, causing it to load slowly in other countries.former engineer Reposted by Ben Live Musk tweeted, “As the former head of technology for Twitter’s timeline infrastructure, I can confidently say that this guy has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.” .
Similarly, Eric Frohnhoefer, a former engineer working on a Twitter app for the Android mobile operating system, was fired shortly after Musk tweeted that he understood Twitter’s app. The technical issue was “wrong”.
Mr. Musk appears to be publicly enjoying his dismissal. tweet your finds In response to a news headline about Tuesday’s dismissal, he said, “I apologize for firing these geniuses. Their immense talents will no doubt be of great use elsewhere.” Tweeted a laughing emoji in response to the discussion.He also posted that he fired another employee There was a “tragic case of adult-onset Tourette’s disease.”
Comedian stop making fun of him
Musk frequently posts crude jokes on Twitter. Some recent examples include comparing Bill Gates to a pregnant emoji, captioning “just in case you need to lose bones all of a sudden,” and competing social media outlets for her. I make masturbation jokes about the app mastodon.
“Comedy is now legal on Twitter,” Musk tweeted shortly after the deal to buy Twitter closed.
But under Elon’s ever-changing Twitter rules, that’s not the case. Twitter suspended the accounts of several celebrities last week, including comedians Kathy Griffin and Sarah Silverman.
“I’m a free speech absolutist and I eat sweets for breakfast every day,” Silverman posted under the persuasive “Elon Musk” joke account.
Musk began tightening the platform’s rules for parody accounts, claiming that what Silverman and others were doing amounted to impersonation.
Things got even more complicated after major corporate brands, from pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly to Nintendo, began to be trolled. In the case of Eli Lilly, the company’s stock price plummeted briefly. The surge in these impersonations, made possible by a new verification system hastily enacted by Musk himself, shows that even something as simple as “legalizing comedy” isn’t all that easy. Especially when that comedy is directed at Musk and his company’s advertisers.
receive money from a country that suppresses free speech
Musk has secured funding from investors to fund the $44 billion Twitter deal. Among them are Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and Qatar Holding, an investment firm owned by the country’s Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been criticized for repressive laws that censor political speech. This is a particularly acute problem in Saudi Arabia, where Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly ordered the killing of exiled US-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in his 2018.
Musk is not the only company receiving funding from Saudi sources. The Saudi government and those close to it have invested in many Silicon Valley tech companies, including Uber, DoorDash and Slack.
But here, too, Musk appears to be compromising his standards of accepting absolute freedom of speech by accepting money from governments that blatantly violate those principles.
Tesla union busting
Elon Musk has made it well known that he is not a fan of labor unions.
In the United States, workers have a legally protected right to bargain and form unions to improve working conditions, so it caused him problems.
After workers at Tesla’s car factory, many of whom were concerned about safety standards, began organizing unions, Musk’s company fired employee union activists and stopped employees from handing out leaflets. , reportedly even banned employees from wearing pro-union shirts. Musk personally got involved and tweeted against the union’s efforts, which the National Labor Relations Board found threatening and later ordered him removed.
Musk said Tesla workers are paid more than their peers and unionization hurts them. That may be true, but why would Musk, a free speech advocate, try to stop workers from discussing their issues and making their own decisions about them?
What Musk’s paradox shows is that it’s easy to say you’re in favor of free speech. Achieving that freedom is difficult.
In the coming months, Musk is expected to change Twitter’s content moderation policies and consider reviving banned accounts, such as those of former President Donald Trump, so that Musk’s free speech spirit will see who You’ll have a better idea of what is protected and who is protected. left behind.