Elon Musk, who has previously referred to himself as a “free speech absolutist,” once said that he’d only comply with governmental requests to censor content on his platforms “at gunpoint.” Elon Musk now faces criticism over his recent claims that Twitter has no choice but to comply with government requests for censorship.
In March last year, Musk posted: “Starlink has been told by some governments (not Ukraine) to block Russian news sources. We will not do so unless at gunpoint. Sorry to be a free speech absolutist.”
When discussing his views on free speech, Musk emphasized the importance of allowing individuals to voice opinions, even if they are disliked by others. He expressed his reluctance to delete content or impose permanent bans on Twitter, stating that the platform would be cautious and aim to permit all legal speech.
However, Musk has recently come under fire for seemingly yielding to government demands for censorship. This includes removing certain accounts and tweets at the request of the Turkish government before their elections, a decision that Twitter later vowed to contest in court.
In a recent interview with the BBC, Musk was questioned about Twitter’s removal of a documentary about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to which he claimed ignorance regarding the specifics of the situation.
Under Musk’s leadership, Twitter approved 83% more requests for censorship from authoritarian governments like Turkey and India than before his takeover in October of last year, El Pais reported.
When Matthew Yglesias, a Bloomberg columnist, tweeted the article on Sunday with a caption quoting Musk calling himself a “free speech absolutist,” the Tesla and SpaceX CEO bristled and shot back: “You’re such a numbskull. Please point out where we had an actual choice and we will reverse it.”
“Look, I’m not the one who bought Twitter amidst a blaze of proclamations about free speech principles,” Yglesias responded. “Obviously you’re within your rights to run your business however you want.”
The controversy surrounding Musk’s stance on censorship raises concerns about his commitment to free speech principles. Critics argue that his actions, including the removal of content and perceived bans on individuals criticizing him, contradict his previous claims of being a proponent of open expression.
As of now, neither Musk nor Twitter representatives have responded to requests for comment on the matter. The situation highlights the tension between upholding free speech ideals and succumbing to external pressures for censorship.