Elon Musk on the Difference Between Big Tech Banning Hate Speech and Hated Speech

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has labeled so-called Big Tech "the de facto arbiter of free speech," after Facebook, Instagram and Twitter banned President Donald Trump from their platforms.

Commenting on a satirical article about Trump's social media ban following the U.S. Capitol riots, Musk tweeted: "A lot of people are going to be super unhappy with West Coast high tech as the de facto arbiter of free speech."

He also replied to a tweet posted by Tesla fan account @RationalEtienne reading: "West Coast high tech has to make the distinction between banning hate speech and banning speech it hates."

Elon Musk responded: "This is an important distinction."

Twitter said it decided to permanently suspend Donald Trump's account "due to the risk of further incitement of violence."

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, which also owns Instagram, said on Tuesday January 7: "Over the last several years, we have allowed President Trump to use our platform consistent with our own rules, at times removing content or labeling his posts when they violate our policies. We did this because we believe that the public has a right to the broadest possible access to political speech, even controversial speech...

"But the current context is now fundamentally different, involving use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.

Zuckerberg continued: "We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great."

Snapchat, Twitch and Reddit have also banned Trump, while other platforms, such as YouTube, Reddit and TikTok, have started clamping down on posts that show Trump spreading misinformation.

Trump's social media ban has further divided opinion between people who believe that social media companies censor users too much, while others argue they do not go far enough.

Some argue that Facebook and Twitter should have blocked Trump earlier, and that not doing so now would run the risk of further violence, whereas others, including several world leaders, view the move as an act of censorship.

The debate intensified further still after Amazon, Apple and Google each decided to blacklist Parler, a self-described "free speech" social network that is popular with right-wingers and conspiracy theorists.

Musk himself has long been critical of Facebook, and he has indicated that he holds the social network at least partly responsible for the U.S. Capitol riot. A day after the violence, Musk posted a meme showing a man setting off a chain of white dominoes.

The smallest domino carries the label "a website to rate women on campus," referencing Facebook's origins, and the largest domino is marked with a message from The New York Times journalist Mark Leibovich, reading: "The Capitol seems to be under the control of a man in a viking hat."

Musk has also been calling for users of Facebook-owned WhatsApp to switch to rival messaging app Signal, in response to a recent WhatsApp policy update.

Last year, he encouraged users to delete their Facebook accounts, describing the social network as "lame," and in 2018 he deleted SpaceX and Tesla's Facebook pages.

elon musk, getty
Tesla CEO Elon Musk pictured on July 7, 2015 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Musk has suggested a distinction must be drawn between Big Tech banning hate speech and speech that they hate. Getty