The Question We Should Be Asking – Will Elon Musk Actually Follow Through On Free Speech And Ending Censorship?

Musk Buys Twitter And Promises Free Speech For All, But Will He?
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) Steve Jurvetson 6/11/19

As the world digested the purchase of Twitter by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Monday, the media attempted to get some sort of reaction from the White House. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that President Joe Biden had “long been concerned” about social media becoming all powerful, and the “harm” that it might do.

But while Psaki blathered on about “misinformation,” it was ABC News White House correspondent Cecelia Vega who may have outed, although inadvertently, what the real concern is among the left. 

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The Real Concern

Vega’s question to Psaki, “And does the White House have any concerns that this new agreement might have President Trump back on the platform?” Bam! There it is.

The concern of D.C. swamp creatures, and every other leftie on the planet. Does this mean that Donald Trump will tweet out mean tweets again?

With any luck, yes.

But it goes much deeper than that. The left’s relationship with free speech is a curious one. They will tell you that yes of course, they are all for free speech. But the free speech they are all for is the kind they like, they control, and they monitor.

With Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, all that narrative control seemed to disappear in the blink of an eye. And Jen Psaki’s answer to Cecelia Vega’s question tells you not only where their heads are at now that this control has been wrested from them, but also that they plan on some sort of response.

Psaki answered:

“What I can tell you as a general matter, no matter who owns or runs Twitter, the president has long been concerned about the power of large social media platforms, the power they have over our everyday lives. He’s long argued that tech platforms must be held accountable for the harms they cause.”

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But Wait Just A Minute

Elon Musk wanting to save free speech is a great thing. True advocates of free speech are ecstatic about this move. But will it prove to be the game changer we all hope and want it to be?

Elon Musk might be seen as a bit eccentric. Many of those who rise to those heights of success tend to be. But before we get started on the statues to Musk, maybe a little skepticism is in order. 

Musk’s most virulent critics in the mainstream media argue that because some terminated Tesla employees have reportedly been asked to sign non-disparagement agreements, barring them from speaking ill of the company into perpetuity. CNBC notes that this is common. 

CNBC author Lora Kolodny, in a clearly hostile piece, also writes that Musk may harbor some dark notions of press freedom, given that Musk, under the guise of Tesla and SpaceX, has asked journalists to sign nondisclosure agreements or get prior approval from the company before going to press. 

The example showcased is that of Wall Street Journal National Security Editor Sharon Weinberger and a visit to SpaceX’s facility on the Kwajalein Atoll, which houses part of the U.S. military’s missile defense testing systems and has more recently been used for space launches.

Weinberger accused Musk of being hostile to a free press – though one could probably guess that a cutting-edge space program working under the auspice of the federal government has a compelling reason to require more secrecy. 

And, in fact, Musk said exactly that:

Whichever side of the story is true, the accusation is clear: Musk doesn’t support a free press!

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What Matters Is Actions

Musk has been open about his – at least rhetorical – support for free speech, specifically in the context of Twitter

Everyone reading this is familiar with the way Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media sites have banned, throttled, or otherwise silenced speech they don’t like. 

And Musk might be – probably is! – completely sincere about it. But the question is: does that matter? Is it enough? 

Until and unless the censorship and banning is actually gone, nice feelings and intentions don’t matter. What matters is the outcome: free speech on Twitter. 

There is also the open question of whether or not Musk, even as the now-private owner of the company, has the power to make it so. 

It is quietly whispered that Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey was also a supporter of free speech, and recoiled at some of the things that were going on. Nevertheless, he didn’t stop it. Maybe he couldn’t.

It wouldn’t be hard to see a major reason why: Twitter employees! 

Besides the numerous reports of employees melting down and freaking out about the terrible prospect of not being able to censor people who have the wrong politics, it’s fairly obvious where they stand. 

Vox found that, for the 2018 election cycle, Twitter employees donated 98.7% to Democrats. 

Read that again. 98.7%.

So the question: will Elon Musk ensure free speech for everyone? At the moment, we will have to take him at his word. There is an old saying about a bit of healthy skepticism being good. Many of us plan to keep our healthy skepticism in place for a while. 

In the meantime, watching the left lose it over the possibility that (gasp!) people could say what they want?! Pure entertainment.

CNN’s Brian Stelter suddenly became everyone’s mom worried about people following rules, and yes, I would definitely be at that party.

Another creatively found a way to throw Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis into the mix. She will let us know what she does regarding her Twitter conundrum. We are all waiting on pins and needles.

In this author’s opinion, even if Twitter doesn’t magically become a free speech haven, at least we had the freakout.