For years, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who recently became the richest man in the world, has positioned himself as something of an ideological enigma. Online and in the media, the eccentric and outspoken billionaire has at various times in his life referred to himself as “socialist,” a “Registered Independent,” a “moderate” and one “fiscal conservativeAs for political donations, Musk has donated to former presidents Barack Obama, a Democrat, and George Bush, a Republican. And in the 2020 presidential election, the Tesla executive brought his support for Andrew Yangan independent and Kanye Westthe pro-Trump turned anti-Trump rapper who received 70,000 votes on Election Day.
But this week, as Musk plans to acquire Twitter, a financial firm that has raised alarm bells among liberals and free speech advocates, the tech billionaire has sought to shut down all speculation, revealing himself as, low and behold, a Republican.
“In the past, I voted Democrat, because they were (mostly) the kindness party,” Musk tweeted. “But they’ve become the party of division and hate, so I can’t support them anymore and I’ll vote Republican. Now watch their dirty tricks campaign against me unfold.”
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Musk’s political unmasking could prove incredibly important in the next election cycle. On the one hand, the billionaire’s conservative leanings could portend a significant rollback of Twitter’s content moderation policies. This is particularly worrying as past elections have shown that the Conservatives are far more inclined than liberals to use Twitter as a vehicle for spreading misinformation.
But for the most part, Musk has raised concerns about fake news, repeatedly stressing the value of “free speech” on Twitter.
“I think it’s very important that there is an inclusive arena for free speech,” Musk said. mentioned at a TED talk last month. “Twitter has become a kind of de facto public square, so it’s very important that people have both the reality and the perception that they can speak freely within the limits of the law.”
In April, Musk too implicit that too many people on Twitter “fear free speech”, saying, “I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law”.
To be clear, Twitter, a private company, has no legal obligation to respect freedom of speech, a constitutional right that ensures citizens can express themselves without government coercion or censorship. But conservatives like Musk have nevertheless insisted that the company systematically “censors” unpopular viewpoints. This sentiment became particularly salient after Donald Trump was officially banned from Twitter in January of last year, just days after a horde of 2,000 Trump supporters violently attacked the Capitol building.
At the time, Twitter made clear that he impeached Trump to prevent the risk of “further incitement to violence”. But Musk vowed to reverse the action, saying it was a “mistake” to ban the former president because he was ostracizing his base.
“Permanent bans should be extremely rare and really reserved for accounts that are bots, or scams, spam accounts,” he said. mentioned at a conference earlier this month. “I think it was wrong to ban Donald Trump,” Musk said. “I think that was a mistake, because it alienated a lot of the country and ultimately didn’t stop Donald Trump from having his voice heard.”
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According to Zignal Labs and CrowdTangle, mentions of Trump dropped 34% on Twitter after the ban, and the circulation of misinformation dropped by 73%. But those numbers could rise if the former president’s account is reinstated, potentially improving his chances of being re-elected.
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Election and misinformation issues aside, Musk’s impending Twitter ownership is also likely to spell adversity for workers’ rights advocates, who in recent years have spearheaded unprecedented labor efforts across a range of industries. enterprise giants including Amazon, Starbucks, Apple and Alphabet (which owns Google).
This week, in his rebuke of Democrats, Musk said the party was ‘too much controlled by unions and…class action lawyers’, calling unions ‘another form of monopoly’ that has ‘captured’ President Biden .
Musk’s remarks likely come in response to the president’s apparent solidarity with various labor efforts across the country. During the election campaign, President Biden vowed to be “the most pro-union president” in American history. That promise was put to the test this month, when the president arranged a meeting with Christopher Smalls, the face of union election victory by Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island, New York. Biden mentioned that Smalls was “creating good trouble and helping to inspire a new organizing movement across the country”.
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And while Musk is now well known for his sensationalized scum, his anti-union rhetoric isn’t just bluster. Until 2021, the tech billionaire had been the subject of a three-year federal investigation by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) into possible union busting at Tesla. The agency finally found last year, Musk threatened to strip workers of their pay and benefits, ordering the CEO to rehire an employee illegally fired for leading a union effort. The NLRB has also deposit a complaint against Musk regarding the company’s alleged surveillance and intimidation of workers attempting to join a union. “Anything union or pro-union gets shut down very quickly,” said a Tesla employee Told The Guardian in 2018. “Pro-union people are usually fired for made-up reasons,” said another. “We are told that Tesla would go bankrupt if we unionize because we are not yet a profitable company.”
As of this writing, it’s still unclear if Musk’s acquisition of Twitter will materialize. This week, the executive said there would be no deal until the site proves that less than 5% of its user base is made up of bots. To complicate matters, on Thursday the billionaire was freshly accused of sexual misconduct by one of her former flight attendants, who alleged the tech mogul exposed himself to her, rubbed her leg without her consent, offered to buy her a horse in return sexual acts and asked Tesla to arrange a $250,000 settlement to keep her quiet about the incident, according to Business Insider.
Musk, who also owns and operates SpaceX, isn’t the only billionaire to come out against the Biden administration recently.
On Monday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the world’s second-richest man, engaged in an online tussle with Biden over inflation after the president suggested he would fight the surge food and fuel prices with corporate tax hikes.
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“You want to lower inflation? Biden tweeted. “Let’s make sure the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share.”
Bezos immediately called the president’s tweet “hijacking,” suggesting that the Department of Homeland Security’s new Disinformation Governance Council should report the message.
“Discussing raising corporate taxes is good. Discussing controlling inflation is key. Mixing them together is just bad direction,” Bezos tweeted.
The swap sparked a vigorous debate around the apparent link between inflation and corporate taxes, with many conservatives experts arguing that increases could exacerbate price increases.
However, Lindsay Owens, executive director of the Groundwork Collaborative, told Salon that the corporate tax hikes would discourage companies from applying excessive markups to their products.
“Since the pandemic, approximately 54% price increases that we see come from what we call markup,” she said in an interview. “This play becomes a lot less fun and a lot less lucrative,” she added, when “it’s taxed and sent to the Treasury. “
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White House spokesman Andrew Bates told CNBC that “it doesn’t take a big leap” to figure out why Bezos would disapprove of a corporate tax hike. Bezos, he said, “opposes a middle-class economic agenda that cuts some of the biggest costs families face… by asking the wealthiest taxpayers and corporations to pay their fair share. “.