Elon Musk Shreds Washington Post over Calls to Ban 'Rich People' from Owning Media
Op-ed attacks Musk for buying into Twitter, despite Jeff Bezos owning WaPo
Elon Musk has humiliated the Washington Post after the billionaire Jeff Bezos-owned newspaper called for a ban on "rich people" controlling media platforms.
A WaPo op-ed was responding to the recent news that Musk has bought a huge 9.2% stake in Twitter, making him the largest shareholder and awarding him a seat on the board of directors.
After joining Twitter's board of directors, Musk now has major influence on Twitter's policies, including those that impact free speech principles.
The Post published an attack piece on Friday titled, "Elon Musk’s vision of ‘free speech’ will be bad for Twitter."
In it, tech investor and former Reddit CEO Ellen K. Pao bashed the billionaire's bought-in "welcome" to Twitter, calling it "highly disconcerting — a slap in the face, even."
"Musk has been open about his preference that Twitter do less to restrict speech that many see as hateful, abusive, or dangerous," Pao wrote.
"Given his new influence, the way he himself has used the platform bodes ill for its future.
"Musk, who has nearly 81 million followers, often punches down in his tweets, displaying very little empathy.
"He called a British caver who helped to rescue trapped young Thai divers ‘a pedo guy’ (beating a defamation suit over the slur but adding to his reputation as a bully).
"In February, he tweeted, then deleted, a meme comparing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Adolf Hitler."
Pao mocked the tech mogul for calling himself a "free-speech absolutist," writing, "like many ‘free speech’ advocates, he willfully ignores that private companies are free to establish some limits on their platforms."
"Twitter made strides to remove hate and harassment and to give users more control over how they share their opinions," Pao wrote.
"It added features that let users limit who could reply to their tweets, created labels for misleading content, and banned President Donald Trump’s account.
"After all that, bringing Musk onto the board seems like a big step backward.
"He can bend the company toward his preferences, removing reasonable policies on hateful speech and urging people who are harassed to have thicker skins."
She continued, "Musk’s appointment to Twitter’s board shows that we need regulation of social media platforms to prevent rich people from controlling our channels of communication.
"For starters, we need consistent definitions of harassment and of content that violates personal privacy.
"Most companies, I suspect, would welcome such regulations…
"If platforms continue to push for growth at all costs — without such regulations — people will continue to be harmed.
"The people harmed will disproportionately be those who have been harmed for centuries — women and members of marginalized racial and ethnic groups.
"The people who benefit from unrestricted amplification of their views will also be the same people who have benefited from that privilege for centuries."
The irony of The Washington Post publishing Pao's remark calling for "regulation of social media platforms to prevent rich people from controlling our channels of communication" was not lost among critics, who pointed out that the paper is owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos.
Even Musk himself was in on the joke.
"Lmaooo," Musk reacted to the op-ed excerpt.
Several members of the media have been sounding the alarm about Musk's growing involvement with Twitter.
Bloomberg Opinion senior columnist and MSNBC political analyst Tim O'Brien called the move "bad news" for free speech,
"That’s worrisome because it's not ideal to have a free speech absolutist who isn’t absolutely in favor of free speech at the helm of — or even close to — a media company," O'Brien wrote.
"And he’s in it to scare Twitter’s management.
"Somebody who has complained that his free speech is being ‘chilled’ should, perhaps, be sensitive to those nuances."
CNN's left-wing media correspondent Brian Stelter said there's a "fear" about Musk becoming a Twitter shareholder.
"There's interest in billionaires, there's celebration of the Musk," Stelter said.
"There's also fear, I think, sometimes or wariness of - okay, so here's the richest man on the planet who just bought a big chunk of one of our most important communications tools.
"He's also one of the biggest owners of satellites in the world.
"So he's incredibly powerful, incredibly, I don't know, am I allowed to use the word ‘strange’ when talking about Elon Musk?"
MSNBC political analyst Anand Giridharadas compared Musk's investment in Twitter to "arsonists cosplaying as firefighters."