New York City – December 12, 2023
Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur, appears to be steering the social media platform X into controversial territory, raising eyebrows and concerns about the platform’s direction. Musk, who acquired the platform in October 2022 for a staggering $44 billion, had initially pledged to prevent it from becoming a “free-for-all hellscape.” However, recent actions seem to contradict that commitment.
Over the weekend, Musk made headlines by welcoming back right-wing extremist Alex Jones, a notorious conspiracy theorist known for spreading reprehensible lies, particularly regarding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Jones had been banned by the platform’s previous management due to repeated violations of harassment and hate policies.
Musk’s decision to reinstate Jones came after an informal poll of his followers and a right-wing pressure campaign led by Jones’ allies. This campaign coincided with a sympathetic interview Jones conducted with Tucker Carlson, another right-wing figure often promoted by Musk.
Not only did Musk reinstate Jones, but X actively encouraged its users to follow him. Jones, who had nearly 900,000 followers on Twitter before his ban five years ago, quickly amassed 1.6 million followers on X by Monday evening.
This move is part of a broader pattern that has unfolded since Musk took ownership of X. Musk has reversed previous bans on racists, extremists, and others, justifying these actions by presenting himself as a free speech absolutist. However, he has also attempted to curtail the speech of critics, creating a complex stance on platform governance.
What raises additional concerns is Musk’s apparent affinity for amplifying the voices of right-wing extremists. As X’s most-followed user, Musk not only allowed them to return to the platform but actively promoted their posts and sought their approval.
On Sunday evening, Musk spent time on an audio stream with various right-wing figures, including Andrew Tate, a right-wing influencer facing charges of human trafficking and rape; Laura Loomer, a self-described “Islamophobe”; retired Gen. Michael Flynn, who has embraced conspiratorial delusions; and Jack Posobiec, a far-right internet personality. Musk’s engagement with these controversial figures in a public forum has sparked concerns about the platform’s future direction.
Despite a mass exodus of advertisers and a decline in the platform’s valuation, Musk appears to be unswayed, and some observers fear he has descended into a conspiratorial rabbit hole, potentially compromising the platform’s integrity and reputation. The world watches as X, a platform used by governments, companies, news organizations, and public figures, navigates the challenges of balancing free speech and responsible content moderation under Musk’s ownership.