Like the employees of Twitter, who reportedly reacted to the news with “shock and dismay,” when it was reported that Elon Musk was going to buy Twitter, a lot of people were not enthused about the idea of Elon Musk buying the social media network.
By the time Elon backed out on the deal, he was in the news on a regular basis.
Many may not have been familiar with Musk, or just think of him as the guy who sells electric cars and is really into space, you might be wondering why so many people were up in arms. And the answer is: He regularly uses his massive platform and other sources of power to do bad things!
Nothing slimy things he has done in his personal life will be mentioned.
Online, those things have included:
- Claiming in March 2020 that people worried about the coronavirus were “dumb”
- Predicting on March 19, 2020, that the U.S. was going to have “close to zero new cases” by the end of April
- Questioning the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines, and baselessly asserting that there were “quite a few negative reactions” to getting a second shot
- Likening Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau to Hitler
- Saying the U.S. government shouldn‘t provide subsidies to companies after receiving billions in subsidies from the U.S government
- Using Twitter to engage in securities fraud
- Tweeting, “Pronouns suck”
- Tweeting misogynistic things at Senator Elizabeth Warren because she said he should pay more in taxes
- Writing to Bernie Sanders, who also thinks the richest man in the world should pay more in taxes, “I keep forgetting that you’re still alive”
- Tweeting dumb, sexist jokes
- Tweeting a photo of Bill Gates and writing, “in case u need to lose a boner fast”
- Tweeting in 2018 that Tesla factory workers could lose their stock options if they unionized
- Baselessly accusing a British cave diver instrumental in rescuing a trapped football team of being a “pedo guy” because he, like others, said Musk’s idea to send in a submarine wouldn’t work
While off-line, and more consequentially:
- Reopening a Tesla factory in violation of public health orders, where 450 cases were subsequently recorded
- Running a company (Tesla) that was ordered to pay nearly $137 million to a former Black employee who said the company ignored repeated complaints that he was called the N-word and that his colleagues “had drawn swastikas and scratched a racial epithet in a bathroom stall and left drawings of derogatory caricatures of Black children around the factory.” (In a message to Tesla employees, a human resources executive downplayed the man’s allegations, noting he was a contractor, not a full-time staffer, and that other witnesses had said that while they heard racial slurs, they were used in a “friendly” manner. The H.R. executive added that the company was “not perfect” at the time of the incidents, and “is still not perfect,” but has “come a long way.”)
- Running a company (Tesla), where a female worker said sexual harassment was “rampant,” alleging “nightmarish conditions” and a factory that “more resembles a crude, archaic construction site or frat house than a cutting-edge company in the heart of the progressive San Francisco Bay area.” (The company did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Washington Post, which noted Tesla “does not typically respond to press inquiries.”)
- Running a company (Tesla) that employees have called a “modern-day sweatshop” (In response, Telsa said it abided by California laws.)
- Attempting to “destroy a Tesla whistleblower”
- Reportedly exploding at “executives and lower-ranking workers” alike, and allegedly firing people who disagreed with him (Musk has denied allegations that he goes on firing sprees)
- Announcing Tesla’s headquarters would move to Texas one month after the state effectively banned all abortions
- Paying a private investigator $50,000 to dig up dirt on the cave diver he called “pedo guy”
That’s a disturbing list for a random person who wasn’t planning on taking over a company that plays a role in millions of people’s lives and exponentially more so for one who would.
Musk has said that Twitter should avoid getting involved in content regulation, and given his documented history of spreading misinformation, attacking his perceived enemies, and retaliating against individuals who he thinks have wronged him, it’s not hard to see why.
Which is more than a little worrisome to people who already think Twitter has a problem with misinformation and abuse (particularly towards women).
Musk claims he needs to rescue Twitter from its current owners, who he thinks do not respect the First Amendment.
But, as many have pointed out, “no one has a legal right to tweet—that is, to post on Twitter, a platform owned by a private company,” and the First Amendment, for zillionaires who are unaware, is about protection from government entities restricting what people are allowed to say, not privately held social media networks.
That’s how, for example, Musk can get away with allegedly firing Tesla employees who disagree with him. Whereas with Twitter, he apparently wanted to manipulate the idea of what “free speech” means, and has suggested he would have allowed people to say whatever they want without consequence, even if what they want to say constitutes harassment or threats or the kind of misinformation that poses a genuine risk to people’s lives.
Which, as the above list suggests, is very much his thing.