Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, has stood firm against the criticism he received for his contentious posts on the social media platform, stating he has the freedom to express his thoughts, irrespective of potential financial losses.
The Tesla magnate faced allegations of antisemitism following his tweet that accused philanthropist George Soros of “hating humanity”. This comment drew sharp criticism from the Israeli government, who saw it as promoting unfounded conspiracy theories about Soros, a figure often targeted by right-wing conspiracy theorists in the US.
Despite the backlash, Musk clarified in an interview with CNBC that he does not hold antisemitic beliefs. He used the same platform to denounce the trend of working from home, labeling it as “morally wrong”, and also expressed criticism towards his tech competitor, OpenAI.
In May, Soros Fund Management reduced its stake in Musk’s company, Tesla. Concurrently, following Musk’s controversial tweet, Israel’s digital diplomacy director, David Saranga, reported a surge in tweets using the term “The Jews”, with over 27,000 instances.
David Miliband, a former Labour MP and Foreign Secretary under Gordon Brown, described Musk’s comments as “absolutely revolting” and urged him to retract his statement.
However, that wasn’t the only part of the interview that raised eyebrows. Musk was also confronted about a tweet where he pondered if a mass shooting was the result of “a very bad psy-op”, referring to a groundless conspiracy theory. “Psy-op”, short for “psychological operation”, is a military term denoting actions designed to influence behaviors.
As one of the wealthiest and most influential individuals worldwide, Musk’s statements have significant impact. With a follower count nearing 140 million, he owns the largest account on one of the world’s biggest social media platforms, Twitter.
Musk’s involvement with spreading misinformation or dubious claims on Twitter has been rising in recent months. His statement questioning the motives behind the Texas shooting and his comments about Bellingcat, the investigative organization that covered the event, are the latest in a string of such instances. Earlier, he circulated deceptive assertions about the Capitol riots, the Ukraine war, and extremist groups in the US.
Despite Musk’s caution in phrasing his tweets, he has been more overt in endorsing the unfounded belief that the Texas shooter was not a neo-Nazi and that his online persona could have been a “psy-op”. This is in defiance of substantial evidence from news outlets and confirmation from Texas police that the shooter harbored extremist and neo-Nazi convictions.
Community Notes, a Twitter feature allowing users to clarify misleading claims via a voting system, has fact-checked some of Musk’s recent tweets.
In the same interview, Musk criticized the practice of working from home. He asserted that it’s not just about productivity; it’s a matter of moral principle. He argued that it was unjust for certain workers, like baristas or shop assistants, to be required to physically go to work while others could work remotely.
Musk also questioned the safety of OpenAI’s technology development approach, specifically referring to ChatGPT. He reiterated his claim of having named the organization, and in March, he was among many prominent figures who signed a letter requesting a pause in AI development until appropriate safeguards and regulations were in place. In the subsequent month, however, he established a competing AI firm, X.AI.