Elon Musk can’t take a joke


Elon Musk — a “free speech absolutist” — appears to make an exception for criticism directed at him.

On Monday, Twitter fired two engineers who publicly challenged Musk on his technical chops, Bloomberg reported. The subsequent day, Twitter reportedly fired over 20 extra who posted negatively about Musk on the corporate’s inner office messaging app Slack, according to Platformer’s Casey Newton.

It’s fairly normal for employees to get fired in the event that they publicly blast their employer. First Amendment rights to free speech typically aren’t protected at work. But these firings appear to contradict Musk’s self-identity as a champion of free speech who purchased Twitter with the mission of liberating it from heavy-handed content material moderation that he felt unfairly censored customers for expressing their beliefs.

“A good sign as to whether there is free speech is: Is someone you don’t like allowed to say something you don’t like? If that is the case, then we have free speech,” Musk said at a TED occasion in April.

Musk has stated he needs to make Twitter a extra open “digital town square” and has signaled his support particularly for conservatives — like Trump — who complain, with out proof, that Twitter is unfairly implementing its content material moderation guidelines in opposition to them.

It appears there are some limits to Musk’s absolute model of free speech and that his personal staff are an exception.

One Twitter worker who was just lately fired and spoke to Recode on the situation of anonymity stated Musk’s firings put him on a listing of “thin-skinned” leaders “who only want absolute free speech for themselves and their supporters.”

If you’ve been following Musk for some time, the contradictions between his free speech beliefs and administration model shouldn’t be stunning. In the previous a number of years, Musk has overtly used his energy as a billionaire and social media energy consumer to attempt to stifle his critics. He’s threatened Tesla employees for organizing, accused journalists of corruption for writing damaging articles about his firms, and unsuccessfully tried to close down a Twitter account posting about his non-public jet’s whereabouts by offering the teenager behind it $5,000.

Here are a few of the some ways Musk has appeared to waver in his dedication to free speech, each throughout his early days as Twitter CEO and up to now.

Firing staff who criticize his management

One of the primary rank-and-file staff Twitter reportedly fired as soon as Elon began his reign on the firm was Manu Cornet, an engineer who was identified for posting cartoons about Twitter’s work culture on his blog.

While Cornet stated he wasn’t given a particular cause aside from his “recent behavior” for being fired, he suspects it could have been as a result of was serving to co-workers put together for layoffs by constructing a instrument to allow them to save work emails. He additionally personally delivered a printed copy of one in all his cartoons to Musk on the San Francisco Twitter headquarters days earlier than being fired.

The cartoon confirmed Musk breaking a statue of a Twitter brand, with one other character standing subsequent to him saying “You break it, you buy it!” When Musk noticed the cartoon, he reportedly told Cornet, “Well I bought it anyway.”

Over the following few days after Cornet’s firing, Musk went on to chop 50 p.c of Twitter’s workers. More just lately, Twitter has made cuts focused towards staff who publicly challenged Musk on Twitter and the corporate’s inner Slack. In order to make the focused cuts, Musk’s workforce was “asked to comb through messages” on Twitter’s inner communications techniques and “make a list of employees who were insubordinate,” according to the New York Times.

Two of the workers who had been just lately let go had publicly challenged Musk’s technical understanding of Twitter’s product.

Musk tweeted a grievance alleging that Twitter was loading slowly in different nations as a result of its technical infrastructure was poorly designed. Former engineer Ben Leib reposted Musk’s tweet with a remark saying, “As the former tech lead for timelines infrastructure at Twitter, I can confidently say that this man has no idea wtf he’s talking about.” Leib was fired the identical day.

Similarly, former engineer Eric Frohnhoefer, who labored on Twitter’s app for the Android cell working system, was fired shortly after tweeting that Musk’s understanding of Twitter’s technical problems was “wrong.”

Musk appears to be publicly relishing his firings, tweeting a dig in reply to a news headline in regards to the firings on Tuesday: “I would like to apologize for firing these geniuses. Their immense talent will no doubt be of great use elsewhere.” He tweeted laughter emojis in response to dialogue in regards to the scenario. He additionally posted that another fired employee had a “tragic case of adult onset Tourette’s.”

Suspending comedians who make enjoyable of him

Musk continuously posts crude jokes on Twitter. A pair latest examples embody evaluating Bill Gates to a pregnant emoji captioned, “in case u need to lose a boner fast,” and making a masturbation joke about competing social media app Mastodon.

Shortly after his deal to purchase Twitter went via, Musk tweeted, “Comedy is now legal on Twitter.”

Except, underneath Elon’s ever-changing Twitter guidelines, it isn’t. Last week, Twitter suspended the accounts of a number of well-known folks, together with comedians Kathy Griffin and Sarah Silverman, after they pranked him by altering their names to “Elon Musk” and posting some humorous tweets.

“I am a freedom of speech absolutist and I eat doody for breakfast every day,” posted Silverman, underneath her convincing-looking “Elon Musk” joke account.

Musk argued what Silverman and others had been doing amounted to impersonation, and he started tightening the platform’s guidelines on parody accounts.

The scenario grew to become even messier after main company manufacturers from pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly to Nintendo began getting trolled — and in Eli Lilly’s case, it quickly caused the company’s stock value to tank. These rush of impersonations — which had been enabled by Musk’s personal rapidly enacted new verification system — present how even one thing so simple as “making comedy legal” isn’t really easy. Especially when that comedy is directed at Musk and his firm’s advertisers.

Accepting cash from nations that suppress freedom of speech

In order to fund his $44 billion Twitter deal, Musk secured funding from investors, together with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia and Qatar Holding, an funding agency owned by the nation’s sovereign wealth fund.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been criticized for oppressive laws censoring political speech. It’s a very acute problem in Saudi Arabia, whose Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly ordered the murder of US-based exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Musk isn’t alone in receiving funding from Saudi sources. Saudi Arabia’s authorities and other people near it put money into many Silicon Valley tech darlings, including Uber, DoorDash, and Slack.

But once more, Musk appears to be compromising his normal of embracing absolute freedom of speech by taking cash from governments that blatantly violate these rules.

Union-busting at Tesla

Elon Musk has made it well-known that he’s no fan of unions.

That has prompted him issues as a result of, within the US, employees have a legally protected proper to debate and kind unions to enhance their working situations.

After Tesla auto manufacturing unit employees — a lot of them involved about security requirements — began organizing a union, Musk’s firm reportedly fired an worker union activist, stopped employees from handing out flyers, and even banned staff from wearing pro-union shirts. Musk personally acquired concerned, tweeting in opposition to the union efforts, which the National Labor Relations Board found threatening and later ordered him to take down.

Musk has stated that Tesla workers make higher pay than their trade friends and that unionizing will damage employees. That could also be true, however why did Musk, a freedom of speech advocate, attempt to cease employees from discussing their points and making up their very own minds on the matter?

What Musk’s contradictions present is that saying you’re in favor of free speech is simple; delivering on that freedom is troublesome.

In the approaching months, as Musk is anticipated to vary Twitter’s content material moderation insurance policies and contemplate reinstating banned accounts — comparable to former President Donald Trump’s — we’ll have a greater thought of who will probably be protected by Musk’s freedom of speech ethos and who will probably be disregarded.


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