Having successful whined himself into the news once again, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has taken it upon himself to voice his opinion on how the world is treating Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. He’s worried in particular about the string of internet companies that have been blocking access to Russian government-owned media outlets.
Starlink, he says, has been asked by more than one government entity to block access to Russian media. Though “(not Ukraine),” he adds. But he won’t do it, not for anyone, not even if he or his internet company are held at gunpoint.
“Sorry to be a free speech absolutist,” he concludes.
Musk’s assertion here that blocking Russian media would constitute a violation of free speech is not only inaccurate — it’s also very telling of how he believes the government should interact with his space-bound ISP.
We get it, Elon — Musk’s distaste for anything that supposedly goes against the principles of free speech is well-documented. His rally behind the concept of free speech is inherently personal. The man loves to talk. He loves to talk even when it’s technically illegal to do so.
A few years ago, Musk’s megaphone of a mouth got him in major trouble with the SEC. His joke tweets about Tesla’s value was deemed misleading by the SEC; Musk read this as his being silenced, rather than, you know, the SEC just doing its job.
Three years later, Musk is still railing against the SEC for its watchful gaze on his Twitter profile — a gaze that’s required by Musk’s settlement in his case. He hates being moderated so much that he’s had his lawyer send multiple complaints to the SEC about the 2018 case. He’s taken to calling anyone that quells his excitement the “fun police.”
Free speech over misinformation — If Musk’s view of free speech sounds familiar, it’s because Donald Trump — as well as his many followers — brought it into the cultural consciousness big time during his presidency. It’s the entire reason alternative social media sites like Parler have sprung up in the last few years. They’re based on the belief that free speech is boundless, that you can post or say whatever you’d like with no regard for the consequences of your words.
ISPs are being asked to block some Russian media outlets not because they shouldn’t be allowed to speak but rather because they are disseminating disinformation about the invasion of Ukraine. Disinformation, by its very nature, is not an opinion; it is a falsity spread under the guise of truth.
Musk’s take here is concerning. Starlink is an internet provider, but that does not allow it to refuse government orders.