Elon Musk Only Cares About His Free Speech

elon musk next to free speech in bubbles
Frederic Legrand/Shutterstock Tamer/Adobe Stock Polina Tomtosova/Adobe Stock

On March 15, a judge dismissed an X Corp case alleging that a hate speech watchdog group, the Center for Countering Digital Hate, wrongfully encouraged advertisers to flee the social media platform X. 

The nonprofit posted multiple articles about the platform’s safety, including a June 2023 report that said X “fails to act on 99% of hate posted by Twitter Blue subscribers.” Starting a lawsuit in August 2023, X’s lawyers tried to claim that the nonprofit “cherry-picked” data to claim that X “is overwhelmed with harmful content.”

But in the 52-page ruling, a California judge wrote that “X Corp has not satisfied the court.” The judge added that this “case is about punishing the Defendants for their speech.” 

X Corp’s founder Elon Musk has claimed he is a “free speech absolutist.” When he swallowed up Twitter in 2022, he said in a press release, “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.”

But judging from his actions, it seems that the only speech he approves of is his own. These days, it’s a mixture of white supremacy dog whistles and the occasional meme. Over the past week, Musk posted a song about the far-right and a chart attempting to tie race to murder rates in NYC. He also shared conspiracy theories about undocumented immigrants from Trump speechwriter Stephen Miller.

His feed is just a never-ending sludge mudslide, with the occasional pat on his back for SpaceX launches, Tesla prices, or tweets done with a “Neuralink telepathy device.” It’s an echo chamber for his strongest acolytes, who tweet off his successes in an attempt to get enough money squabbling in Twitter Blue comment sections to earn back their subscription fee. 

Musk’s whims influence the platform as a whole, even when they just contradict themselves. For example, last week, X suspended a number of journalists and creators who discovered the alleged real name of an anonymous Neo-Nazi cartoonist, Stonetoss. The suspensions came after Stonetoss tweeted for someone with a “direct line” to Musk.

According to WIRED, X did not have a “policy related to outing the identity of an anonymous user” before they reached out for comment about the Stonetoss story on March 20. But now, X’s policy says that X can suspend users for posting “the identity of an anonymous user.”

But X seems to be enforcing this policy unevenly. LibsofTikTok, the transphobic account that Musk has personally shared, could be breaking these new doxxing rules. The account regularly outs LGBTQ+ members, leading to their harassment. Stonetoss and LibsofTikTok fit more closely with Musk’s current anti-immigrant and anti-DEI rhetoric, which could shield them on his platform.

There are other examples of Musk trying to stifle the free speech of those who disagree with him. In April 2023, he limited the reach of the newsletter platform Substack. In September 2023, he threatened to sue the Anti-Defamation League.

He’s even seemingly used the platform to block times he’s gotten owned in the comments. When the satire site Hard Drive ratioed the tech oligarch for his dunks on SNL and stolen memes, comments under the posts just stopped appearing. 

But those who dare speak out about hateful dialogue on X or its real-world consequences receive waves of vitriol. The Center for Countering Digital Hate became Musk’s target for speaking out against him. If the suit had continued, it would have set a dangerous precedent for free speech lawsuits in the future. 

X has become an institution that shields bad-faith actors under the guise of being a pro-free speech platform. When in reality, it’s only free if Musk agrees.

What are your thoughts on Elon Musk’s approach to free speech? Email tips@passionfru.it to share your insights.

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