Elon Musk Goes on Offense to Defend Offensive Speech

From The Wall Street Journal:

Elon Musk wants you offended.

His fight to protect free speech didn’t end with buying Twitter and simply loosening content moderation.

More than a year into owning the social-media platform now known as X, Musk’s aggressive tactics to defend myriad spectrums of speech are becoming clearer. Meanwhile, some say those efforts actually protect speech he likes, and repress other views.

“It’s actually good that I’m reading some things that offend me because that means freedom of speech is alive,” Musk said this past week during an audio event on X in which he talked in depth about his philosophy.

His approach looks twofold: He is trying to protect individuals’ ability to say what they please on X without fear of losing their livelihoods. All while he is also actively fighting—with lawsuits and his own X megaphone—outside critics who maintain X has become a bastion of hate.

Part of his approach is drawing criticism, including from the American Civil Liberties Union, that X is the one trying to stifle speech. Meanwhile, some of his supporters worry aloud that he’s going too far, risking offending customers of his other businesses, such as the electric-car maker Tesla.

. . . .

The way Musk frames his thoughts on free speech seems straight from the techno libertarianism that flourished in Silicon Valley around the time he arrived in Palo Alto in the 1990s and as he chased his dreams during the early days of the dot-com bubble.

It was a period when a new generation of techies wanted to minimize government regulation as the idea of the internet took root, arguing that the free market would guide the best choices.

Except, in Musk’s case, today he appears perplexed and frustrated by the free market’s reaction to his X changes.

. . . .

Advertisers from Apple to Disney have fled the platform, worried about associations with antisemitism, pro-Nazi and other hate speech, and ensuing dramas regarding his ownership.

They are effectively exercising their freedom of speech by taking their valuable ad dollars elsewhere.

Doing so, in Musk’s view, can have a chilling effect on speech that’s outside the norm, encouraging a world of conformity. He even went so far as to call it blackmail and, in November, infamously told advertisers to “go f— yourself.” And he called for Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, to be fired, or, put another way, canceled.

. . . .

More than just throwing f-bombs, Musk is also fighting back against groups that are working to highlight content on the platform they say is offensive.

In July, for example, X filed a lawsuit against the Center for Countering Digital Hate after it published research critical of X, including a report that said the company had taken no action against 99 of 100 posts that researchers contend were hateful.

X claimed the group’s findings were flawed and said the attention resulted in several advertisers’ halting spending. A key part of the lawsuit against the center is X’s contention that the group violated the social-media platform’s terms of service that prohibit the process of collecting, or scraping, a large number of public posts.

The center is asking a federal judge in San Francisco to dismiss the case, calling “for an end to this baseless effort to silence honest criticism and punish critics.” A hearing is scheduled for Thursday. 

The ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Knight First Amendment Institute have filed a brief supporting the center, saying that scraping is a basic digital tool used to provide the public with insight into how powerful platforms, such as X, operate. 

They argued that the company is simply attempting “to punish” the center for “its speech by enforcing its term prohibiting scraping,” which if allowed they say would have a chilling effect and give X an end run “around the First Amendment.” 

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

PG suggests that billionaires throwing temper tantrums is a bad look, even on social media.

14 thoughts on “Elon Musk Goes on Offense to Defend Offensive Speech”

    • The euros hope so.
      They just started paper studies trying to figure out how to do reusable boosters.
      (In the meantime they are grudgingly flying satellites via Falcon9 and signed up to send their first space station via STARSHIP.)
      SpaceX might be selling moonbases by the time ARIANE starts reusing their future booster (Ariane 7? Ariane 6 still isn’t flying and it’s already uncompetitive).

      China, too; they are at the “hopper” test landing stage. Ten years behind SPACEX.

      Any day now the FTC will investigate why SPACEX has 80% of global satellite launches and the only working LEO internet service. Surely something funny must be going on.

      • It will be very interesting to watch as there is more competition and SpaceX lowers their prices. Right now they are pricing just a bit under what others charge, not anywhere close to their costs. They could lower prices a LOT and still make money.

        There was a mission a couple years ago that was designed for an air-launched rocket company that listed their launch price at $25m, SpaceX won the bid for the mission, even though they list the price for a launch at $67m for a F-9.

        Rather than cutting prices to the bone and driving everyone else out of business, they are raking in the cash to fund Starship and Starlink (although Starlink is supposed to be cash flow positive this year)

        And with Starship, they could reach the point where it would be cheaper to launch a manned Starship and have a crewmember open an airlock and toss your satellite out than it would be to launch it on one of the smallsat launchers that is trying to get into the business.

        • All true.
          His goal is $3M launch costs for 100-200Tons, not $3M per launch retail price.
          He needs big money for his big plans.

          But even more interesting: a couple years back after SN15 landed safely, somebody asked Musk what more would it take for the Starship upper stage to make it to orbit and his answer was that it already could but without much of a payload. Which brings up exactly how much is “not much”? One ton? Two?And since then there have been two more versions of Raptors and talk of stretching Starship, maybe adding three more engines.

          SpaceX might very well be sitting on the holy grail of an SSTO because the goal is cheap single launch space stations and telescopes, not smallsats. But if the market calls…

          Beyond that, Musk also said the engine that would power Starships to mars would not be called Raptor. And when NASA recently proved they’d figured out Rotating detonation engines (25% more power for the same fuel) Musk answer was a smiley.

          All along he’s been talking 300 Ton Starships with 3 hour turnaround times on the booster and a thousand upper stages. You don’t do that for Mars. Not really. But for the moon or an O’neil colony? My take all along has been that the mars talk is for show. His real goal is to own CisLunar space. *Then* he can get serious about Mars.

        • BTW, this just dropped:


          The stock watchers just noticed how SpaceX transporter program works.

          “According to SpaceX’s own capabilities and services information sheet, the Falcon 9 reusable rocket that SpaceX uses for Transporter missions has a maximum payload of 22,000 kilograms, and sells for $67 million per launch. A bit of quick calculator work tells you that SpaceX should be able to charge as little as $3,045 per kilogram for Transporter missions without giving up any of the profit margin it ordinarily earns on Falcon 9 launches of larger satellites for other customers.”

          And that is by SpaceX retail pricing, not costs.

          Pricing to market is neither new nor SpaceX exclusive.

          Reminds me of Amazon Kindle pricing: matching Sony at Introduction, matching NOOK when B&N thought they could underprice them even though it was clear to all that Kindle 2 was cheaper to build.

          Smart market leaders are hard to compete with.

  1. As Elon has said, you don’t need Free Speech protections for speech everyone likes, you know you have Free Speech when speech that is disliked is allowed

  2. Elon is under attack for pushing against The Narrative.

    “The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use them.”

    — Philip K. Dick

  3. It’s remarkable how much context they left out to make it look like just a temper tantrum though. This is a spin job many will probably take as gospel though, judging from the track record.

  4. The OP is just the latest chapter in the Musk war on the admin:


    “It was, on the surface, a typical example of reporting the news: a journalist obtains internal documents from a major corporation, shedding light on a political dispute that flared in the waning days of the 2020 presidential race.

    But when it comes to Elon Musk and Twitter, nothing is typical.

    The so-called Twitter Files, released Friday evening by the independent journalist Matt Taibbi, set off a firestorm among pundits, media ethicists and lawmakers in both parties. It also offered a window into the fractured modern landscape of news, where a story’s reception is often shaped by readers’ assumptions about the motivations of both reporters and subjects.

    The tempest began when Mr. Musk teased the release of internal documents that he said would reveal the story behind Twitter’s 2020 decision to restrict posts linking to a report in the New York Post about Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son, Hunter.

    Mr. Musk, who has accused tech companies of censorship, then pointed readers to the account of Mr. Taibbi, an iconoclast journalist who shares some of Mr. Musk’s disdain for the mainstream news media. Published in the form of a lengthy Twitter thread, Mr. Taibbi’s report included images of email exchanges among Twitter officials deliberating how to handle dissemination of the Post story on their platform.”

  5. There’s a bit more than a temper tantrum to Musk’s anti-woke campaign: it is retribution for the administration’s attempts to hamper his two main businesses to curry favor with the unions, ULA, and enviros.
    The list (blatant) of attacks go back to 2020 as documented here:


    Months later, email leaks from ULA revealed ULA was asking the unions “White House man” to get the admin to slow down SpaceX and decrying NASA choosing their cheaper and more powerful lunar lander proposal.

    More recently he has been sued for *following* export control laws in hiring at SpaceX (non-union, like Tesla) which require only US citizens and green card holders. He countersued, claiming regulator courts are *all* unconstitutional and won the first round.

    FCC has a program to subsidize internet access to exurbs and rural regions and dished out hundreds of millions to cablecos and phone comanies but rejected SpaceX’s STARLINK system which is faster and latency. They insist they are unsure SpaceX can deliver. (Never mind the 2.3M Starlink subscribers worldwide, including cruise ships, airlines, Ukraine…)

    Even Congress got alarmed when NASA had to delay the Artemis 3 luar mission because FAA has been slow walking SPACEX R&D launches of STARSHIP. First, to make sure Starship didn’t launch before SLS (embarrasing that a $10M private rocket started in 2018 might launch before the $200M old-space boondoggle) and more recently holding back the launch permit for three months after SPACEX submitted all required paperwork last november.

    (The idea Starship can *profitably* put 100-200 Tons into orbit for less than $10M a launch when NASA and DOD pay over $200M to Boeing et al is not welcome in DC.)

    Musk buying Twitter and releasing the internal “Twitter files” proving the administration was telling social media companies what to censor and when was his counterattack. That is currently making its way through the courts.

    It is never a good thing when businesses venture into politics but in this particular case nothing else was working. And, let’s face it Musk is a classic savant well on the autistic spectrum. He admits he has Aspergers and he clearly has impulse control issues. Plus the monetary power to indulge his whims.

    This will not end well for his enemies, even if it takes years and a good chunk of his money. It is not wise to poke the bear when the bear has over $200B to work with, with a clear shot at a trillion.

    • There’s something to this… but there’s more than something to Mu5k’s misuse of (some University of California-generated) IP, to worker (un)safety and other mistreatment, to deceptive conduct apparently intended to undermine other things (Hyyyyyyyyperloooooooop…).

      There are no heroes here, just various grades of villains all in need of competence lessons from Wile E. Coyote.

      • Pretty much.
        But the issue isn’t about who is Peter Pureheart but about the fundamental misuse (corruption?) of state power. Politicians doing favors and dispensing largesse to the Friends of the Party is old news. Centuries old. Politicians activively attacking and seeking to destroy the competitors of said friends? That is newer.
        And much more concerning if it succeeds.

        Consider the pace of R&D at Boca Chica from 2018 to 2020 when SpaceX was free to use their preferred hardware-rich development methodology of build-launch-fail-improve-retry. They went from a dinky flying water tower through 15 prototypes to a succesful landing in less than two years versus two launches, endless studies and public hearings to 18 months of prototype testing jumping throigh hoos to satisfy idiots concerned that bringing thousands of workers and investing hundreds of millions in Brownsville (the poorest city in Texas) was *gentrifying* their vacation spot.

        Anybody with less resources would’ve ended up like Tucker but Tucker was a normal person and Musk isn’t. Thevwhole campaign is seriously stupid and self-defeating.

        Before, he was like most billionaire entrepreneurs, mostly apolitical. Slightly left of center by his own admission. And his catfights were about doing weed in public, getting drug tested by NASA and his special school for his platoon of kids from his serial polygamy.

        Now he is at war with the entire progressive wing of the party he used to vote for and giving aid and comfort to their enemies. Before he had non-political goals; now he stands a not-insignificant chance of upending the underpinings of the regulatory state before a SUPREME COURT itching to overturn CHEVRON. Scalia is probably licking his chops at getting a shot at the unelected regulatory courts outside the judicial branch. You woukd know better than me his odds but by all reports they’re not zero. If overturning CHEVRON is a threat to half the executive branch, Musk’s DOJ suit threatens the other half.
        Even if he loses he becomes a symbol of government abuse. And that assumes Biden is reelected.

        Actions breed reactions and Musk is a bear they shouldn’t have poked. He was a loose cannon before, now he’s a canon with a target.

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