Elon Musk talks a big game about freedom of expression. The billionaire refers to himself as a “free speech absolutist,” and spent the last year making bold promises about undoing Twitter’s perceived history of suppressing distasteful ideas. But the old saying goes, you should judge a man by his actions, not his words. By that metric, it seems Musk loves censorship, and the list of evidence just keeps getting longer.
One shining example is Musk’s willingness to silence the opponents of foreign governments. Governments often ask social media companies to take down posts or accounts they don’t like. Before Musk took over, Twitter complied with about half of these requests. The numbers shot up under his leadership; these days, Elon’s Twitter cooperates with government censorship requests 80% of the time. All this from a man who foamed at the mouth over the self-important “Twitter Files,” internal company emails that Elon said would reveal Twitter’s earlier collaboration with the US Government. (The Twitter Files did not reveal that.)
Musk isn’t just censoring on behalf of government strong men, though. The tweeter-in-chief seems more than happy to decide what kind of speech is and isn’t allowed on Twitter based on his own personal opinions, and has a history of changing Twitter’s policies to silence people and ideas he doesn’t like.
Take Musk’s growing obsession with the transgender community, for instance. He declared that the words “cis” and “cisgender” are now considered slurs on Twitter. These words are not slurs. “Cisgender” is a neutral, clinical term that means the opposite of transgender. There is no other well-known word for people who are not transgender.
That’s peculiar behavior that seems to violate free speech champion Elon Musk’s own personal definition of free speech. In an interview last year, Musk said:
A good sign as to whether there is free speech is, is someone you don’t like allowed to say something you don’t like? If that is the case, we have free speech. It’s damn annoying when someone you don’t like says something you don’t like. That is the sign of a healthy, functioning free speech situation.
The problem is serious enough to earn attention from congress. On Thursday, Congressman Adam Schiff read this article into the federal record at a House Judiciary Committee hearing with FTC chair Lina Khan.
There are far more than ten examples of Musk censoring Twitter users because they say and do things he doesn’t like. Look through this list and decide for yourself whether Elon Musk has established a “healthy, functioning free speech situation,” as he promised.
Update 07/13/2023, 3:50 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with details about Rep. Adam Schiff reading this article into the federal record.