Opinion: Free speech or weapon Mr. Musk?

Opinion: Free speech or weapon Mr. Musk?

Like most people, I’ve watched Elon Musk pose as the king of Twitter while vowing to protect “free speech.”

I have a feeling that Mr. Musk didn’t consider the difference between free speech and hate speech – until he became the alleged victim himself.


In short, a Florida university student, Jack Sweeny, set up Twitter accounts that tracked and tweeted live public information about private jet departure and arrival locations and times of wealthy businessmen and politicians — including Elon Musk (@elonjet). With or without this account, flight information is publicly available.

Apparently, as a result of this real-time tracking, Musk has told the media that a stalker recently followed the car with one of his children and jumped on the hood of the car. (The actual story is still unfolding).

Musk then implemented new “anti-doxing” policies on Twitter and shut down Sweeny’s @elonjet tracking account and his personal account. Then, seemingly without reason, he suspended the accounts of mainstream reporters who worked for the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and others. He later accused those journalists of reporting on his whereabouts, which he described as “essentially murder coordinates.”

Reading all of this crystallized the whole free speech debate for me.

With his vast wealth, Musk can easily afford bulletproof cars and a small army to protect himself and his family. And yet he claims to be afraid of what might happen to them if their real-time whereabouts are made public.

If Musk can’t guarantee his family’s safety due to doxxing, what can ordinary people do? Mostly nothing.

The consequences of hate speech and exposing the coordinates of Musk’s plane on social media accounts boil down to the same thing – putting people at risk by setting them up as targets.

Freedom of speech / freedom of expression:

According to Cornell Law in the US, “Freedom of speech is the right to speak, to write, and to exchange ideas and opinions without being penalized by the government. The First Amendment protects this right by prohibiting Congress from making laws that would restrict freedom of speech.”

But there are limits. Speech that contains obscenity and vulgarity (e.g., child pornography), defamation, incitement to commit crime, and altercation (incitement to use violence against someone) are not protected by the First Amendment. Similar restrictions exist in Canada.

When hate speech is disseminated publicly, particularly in the media or on social media platforms, and particularly by or about well-known figures, it empowers followers to reinforce the message and sometimes hurt others. It advocates more of the same hate behavior.

To state that you indiscriminately protect all speech because you believe all is equal is mental laziness in my opinion. As the king of Twitterland, it’s dangerous to overlook the differences between speech, which is a free exchange of ideas, and hate speech, which is aimed at someone with intent to harm them. When you advocate for someone’s right to attack others through “free speech,” you rob victims of much more than their ability to speak freely. They rob them of their privacy, their peace of mind, and sometimes their safety.

Which brings me to Musk’s pronoun: Prosecute/Fauci. For whatever reasons? What does he think he’s doing when he’s not maliciously targeting Fauci? Musk has 122.6 million followers and some of them are dangerous. Hasn’t it occurred to him that by testifying he is putting Fauci and his family in danger? Has it never occurred to him that in a twisted mind, prosecution equals execution? And what about the millions of doctors, scientists and healthcare workers who are adhering to universal health coverage guidelines during the Covid pandemic? If Musk thinks Fauci should be prosecuted, does that mean they should all be prosecuted? Should they have targets on their backs?

Twitter is a private company. It can create its own moderation rules. With over 368 million users worldwide, the platform is home to a vast cross-section of humanity, with millions of others hating millions of users. Among the haters there are still quite a significant number of sick, twisted, violent people who are on the ground every day – just looking for targets.

With that in mind, Musk doesn’t work with much introspection. Maybe he’s OK with the wars of the world, with the inequalities of the world, with the meanness and misogyny of the world. If not, he has an opportunity on Twitter to enforce decency through sensible moderation policies based simply on how he and his family would like to be treated.

  • Louise Mignault

    Advisory Board
    Louise is an independent artist and writer. Eager to right the wrongs of deceit, hatred and greed. Your keyboard is your sword. Her blog: www.louise-mignault.com

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