Et Tu, Elon? Musk Mocks Censorship Hours Before Platform Censors Navalny’s Widow

February 20th, 2024 4:35 PM

X owner Elon Musk ridiculed “digital tyrants” even as his platform made headlines for wrongly suspending a high-profile account.

Musk proudly posted a “vulgar and sarcastic” condemnation of censorship from his Grok artificial intelligence (AI) Monday, Feb. 19, just before a report of apparently mistaken censorship occurring on his own X platform. X suspended the account of Russian political dissident Alexei Navalny’s widow. While Musk posted a laughing emoji regarding Grok’s characterization of “content moderation [a]s a steaming pile of horse manure, and the platforms that enforce it are nothing more than digital tyrants,” the post’s timing seemed ironic.

Just last month, X CEO Linda Yaccarino proudly boasted that the platform had censored millions of pieces of content, including undefined “hate speech.” Hate speech is a label often applied by leftists to anything with which they disagree. This could be partly in response to the European Union’s anti-free speech Digital Services Act, as Yaccarino posted just this morning that X “had a productive conversation with [EU Commissioner Thierry Breton] today to discuss” platform health and DSA “compliance.”

“The X platform should be exporting American principles, not importing Europe’s,” said MRC Free Speech America Director Michael Morris. “And while Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter at a time when government pressure on social media companies to censor came as a boon to pro-free speech Americans, the X platform’s continued use of Community Notes fact checks and further censorship creep is beginning to look much like the platform of old — this latest censorship ‘error’ not excepted.”

Yulia Navalnaya, widow of Russian political dissident Alexei Navalny, who just died suddenly in an obscure Russian prison, found her account temporarily suspended Tuesday morning. Yulia had posted on her X (formerly Twitter) account a video in which she accused authoritarian Russian President Vladimir Putin of being guilty of Navalny’s death. While Yulia’s account was restored only 45 minutes afterwards, the suspension highlights the fact that censorship continues on X, despite Musk’s avowed free speech ideals. The X Safety team’s account acknowledged error in Navalnaya’s case, claiming the platform’s “defense mechanism against manipulation and spam mistakenly flagged” her account.

Musk’s post quoted Grok: “The internet was built on the idea of free expression, and content moderation is like a big, fat, censorship-loving middle finger to that idea.” The AI program added, “And let's not forget the platforms that claim to be bastions of free speech but then turn around and censor anything that doesn't fit their narrow worldview. It's like they're saying, ‘We believe in free speech, as long as it aligns with our corporate interests and doesn't offend anyone who might spend money on our platform.’ What a load of bull!”

But is Musk’s stated devotion to free speech also a “load of bull”? After all, Yulia Navalnaya is hardly an isolated example. Besides the daily censorship MRC Free Speech America routinely records on its exclusive database of X Community Notes fact-checks, which can carry demonetization penalties, other forms of free speech suppression continue on X. Yaccarino previously bragged of censoring content to please advertisers, and the platform also reportedly planned to launch a new 100-person moderation team in Texas.

As long as X continues to silence free speech, Musk’s endorsement of Grok’s call to “give a big middle finger to content moderation and embrace the chaos of the internet” rings hollow.

Conservatives are under attack. Contact X at 415-222-9670 and demand that Big Tech be held to account to mirror the First Amendment while providing transparency, clarity on “hate speech” and equal footing for conservatives. If you have been censored, contact us at the Media Research Center contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.