Elon Musk can’t take a joke

Photo illustration of Elon Musk and the blue Twitter bird logo.
Elon Musk is the world’s richest man and the brand new proprietor and CEO of Twitter. | Muhammed Selim Korkutata/Anadolu Company through Getty

The Twitter CEO has repeatedly contradicted his personal “free speech” values.

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 following day, Twitter reportedly fired over 20 extra who posted negatively about Musk on the corporate’s inside office messaging app Slack, in response to Platformer’s Casey Newton.

It’s fairly customary for staff to get fired in the event that they publicly blast their employer. First Modification rights to free speech usually aren’t protected at work. However 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 very good signal as as to if there may be free speech is: Is somebody you don’t like allowed to say one thing you don’t like? If that’s the case, then we now have free speech,” Musk mentioned at a TED occasion in April.

Musk has mentioned he desires to make Twitter a extra open “digital city sq.” and has signaled his help specifically 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 workers are an exception.

One Twitter worker who was just lately fired and spoke to Recode on the situation of anonymity mentioned Musk’s firings put him on an inventory of “thin-skinned” leaders “who solely need absolute free speech for themselves and their supporters.”

In case you’ve been following Musk for some time, the contradictions between his free speech beliefs and administration fashion shouldn’t be shocking. Previously a number of years, Musk has overtly used his energy as a billionaire and social media energy person to attempt to stifle his critics. He’s threatened Tesla staff for organizing, accused journalists of corruption for writing unfavorable articles about his firms, and unsuccessfully tried to close down a Twitter account posting about his personal jet’s whereabouts by providing {the teenager} behind it $5,000.

Listed below 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 previously.

Firing workers who criticize his management

One of many first rank-and-file workers 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 tradition on his weblog.

Whereas Cornet mentioned he wasn’t given a selected cause aside from his “current conduct” for being fired, he suspects it may have been as a result of was serving to co-workers put together for layoffs by constructing a device to allow them to save work emails. He additionally personally delivered a printed copy of considered one of 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 purchase it!” When Musk noticed the cartoon, he reportedly instructed Cornet, “Nicely I purchased it anyway.”

Over the subsequent few days after Cornet’s firing, Musk went on to chop 50 % of Twitter’s employees. Extra just lately, Twitter has made cuts focused towards workers who publicly challenged Musk on Twitter and the corporate’s inside Slack. So as to make the focused cuts, Musk’s group was “requested to comb by messages” on Twitter’s inside communications techniques and “make an inventory of workers who have been insubordinate,” in response to the New York Instances.

Two of the staff who have 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 international locations as a result of its technical infrastructure was poorly designed. Former engineer Ben Leib reposted Musk’s tweet with a remark saying, “As the previous tech lead for timelines infrastructure at Twitter, I can confidently say that this man has no thought wtf he’s speaking about.” Leib was fired the identical day.

Equally, former engineer Eric Frohnhoefer, who labored on Twitter’s app for the Android cellular working system, was fired shortly after tweeting that Musk’s understanding of Twitter’s technical issues was “flawed.”

Musk appears to be publicly relishing his firings, tweeting a dig in reply to a information headline in regards to the firings on Tuesday: “I wish to apologize for firing these geniuses. Their immense expertise will little question be of nice use elsewhere.” He tweeted laughter emojis in response to dialogue in regards to the state of affairs. He additionally posted that one other fired worker had a “tragic case of grownup onset Tourette’s.”

Suspending comedians who make enjoyable of him

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

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

Besides, beneath Elon’s ever-changing Twitter guidelines, it isn’t. Final week, Twitter suspended the accounts of a number of well-known individuals, 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’m a freedom of speech absolutist and I eat doody for breakfast each day,” posted Silverman, beneath her convincing-looking “Elon Musk” joke account.

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

The state of affairs turned even messier after main company manufacturers from pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly to Nintendo began getting trolled — and in Eli Lilly’s case, it quickly induced the corporate’s inventory worth to tank. These rush of impersonations — which have been enabled by Musk’s personal swiftly enacted new verification system — present how even one thing so simple as “making comedy authorized” isn’t really easy. Particularly when that comedy is directed at Musk and his firm’s advertisers.

Accepting cash from international locations that suppress freedom of speech

So as to fund his $44 billion Twitter deal, Musk secured funding from traders, 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 legal guidelines censoring political speech. It’s a very acute situation in Saudi Arabia, whose Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly ordered the homicide 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 folks near it put money into many Silicon Valley tech darlings, together with Uber, DoorDash, and Slack.

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

Union-busting at Tesla

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

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

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

Musk has mentioned that Tesla staff make larger pay than their trade friends and that unionizing will harm staff. That could be true, however why did Musk, a freedom of speech advocate, attempt to cease staff 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 straightforward; delivering on that freedom is tough.

Within the coming months, as Musk is anticipated to alter Twitter’s content material moderation insurance policies and take into account reinstating banned accounts — comparable to former President Donald Trump’s — we’ll have a greater thought of who will likely be protected by Musk’s freedom of speech ethos and who will likely be disregarded.

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