Even Elon Musk has his limits.
Musk, Tesla’s (TSLA) – Get Free Report CEO, recent Twitter owner and self-described free-speech absolutist, has maintained that the microblogging website is the “de facto town square” ever since he walked through the front door with a sink in his hands.
“It’s insane!” the world’s richest man tweeted on Nov. 25. “I’m just fighting for free speech in America.”
In his quest, Musk recently welcomed back Donald Trump, ending a 22-month ban for the former Republican president.
Trump, for his part, has said he sees no reason to return to the site and indicated that he would stick with his own version of Twitter, Truth Social.
In addition, Twitter recently changed its rules so that it will no longer enforce its covid-19 misleading-information policy.
Hate speech has also reportedly increased on Twitter, despite Musk’s statements to the contrary. The Center for Countering Digital Hate said it had tracked 26,228 tweets and retweets mentioning the N-word slur, triple the 2022 average, beginning Oct. 31, the first full week under Musk’s ownership.
The group also found substantial increases in the number of antigay and antisemitic tweets and retweets in the same period.
Musk Says ‘I Tried My Best’
“Musk’s ownership of Twitter has generated a great deal of controversy and angered many stakeholders,” said Kelli Burns, social media expert and a professor at the University of South Florida. “Many of the platform’s top advertisers halted their Twitter ad spending, and users are also leaving in droves for other social media sites, such as Mastodon.”
Musk, she added “has expressed a commitment to freedom of speech and also content moderation by suggesting the use of a moderation team with a range of viewpoints.”
The billionaire recently drew a line with Kanye West, rapper, presidential candidate and Kim Kardashian’s ex-husband, who in October legally changed his name to Ye.
The hammer came down after Ye tweeted an image that appeared to show a swastika inside the Star of David, prompting Musk to suspend Ye’s account.
“I tried my best,” Musk tweeted on Dec. 2. “Despite that, he again violated our rule against incitement to violence. Account will be suspended.”
Burns said that this was “the last straw for Ye.”
“It seems that Musk’s only concern is the possibility of the platform being used to incite violence, while other forms of hate speech by users have no consequences,” she said.
Swastikas are NOT ‘Free Speech’
This move did not sit well with some members of the Twitterati, who assailed Musk for saying nay to Ye.
“You suspended Kanye, your free speech rhetoric is slowly turning into a lie,” one person said.
Another posted an image of a sad-looking Kanye with the title “When Your Friend Kicks You Out.”
“So what post did he incite violence?” another asked. “Confused”
“People should be able to say whatever they want regardless of how unappealing it is to anyone.. even if it might inspire others in a negative way,” another person said. “There’s a big difference between inspiring people and actually ‘doing something’ yourself. Free speech isn’t ‘free’ with boundaries.”
“Free speech for all, or for none,” another person tweeted. “Bad look.”
Each comment, of course, inspired rebuttals.
“Swastikas are NOT ‘free speech’.” one comment stated. “Kanye has lost it and is obviously looking for trouble. Well, he found it.”
“Ppl here screaming Free Speech, this is wrong OBVIOUSLY did not see what Ye posted?” one tweet said. “It wasn’t just a swastika it was swastika inside the Israel flag”
“There should be limits and this is a good reason for suspension,” another commenter said.
“And you really thought this wasn’t going to happen?!! everyone told you,” one person said to Musk. “You chose not to listen. The same goes with the Trump account who YOU brought back. You can’t have ppl like that on here. All they do is promote hate & violence. They got suspended for a REASON.”
West has been courting all kinds of controversy, most recently declaring on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s online talk show that he saw “good things about Hitler.”
‘A Vicious Antisemite’
He also managed to deny the Holocaust and say that Nazis “did good things, too” and “we gotta stop dissing the Nazis all the time.”
“Saying you “like Hitler,” “love the Nazis,” and spending all your time with a white supremacist makes one thing clear: Ye is a vicious antisemite,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted. “His comments today on InfoWars are not just vile and offensive: they put Jews in danger.”
Jones has had troubles of his own, stemming from his false claims regarding the 2012 mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
The Infowars host, who has been ordered to pay $1.44 billion in compensation for promoting conspiracy theories about the tragedy, filed for personal Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a Texas court on Dec. 2, according to CNN.
In February he tweeted a meme linking Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Hitler with the title “”Stop comparing me to Justin Trudeau. I had a budget.”
Greenblatt tweeted on Feb. 17 that comparisons to Hitler “are inappropriate & offensive.” Musk deleted the meme.