Several voices were raised to describe the behavior of the billionaire as “harassment”.
Elon Musk, who has just made an agreement to buy Twitter, criticized and publicly mocked executives of the Californian company, arousing anger when many employees already seem worried about the idea of being directed by the boss of Tesla. After supporting a derogatory tweet about Vijaya Gadde, the social network’s lawyer in charge of regulations and security, the multi-billionaire also split a meme (parody image) on Wednesday to mock the platform’s rules in terms of content moderation and who is responsible. “Harassment is not management”responded Dick Costolo, who ran Twitter from 2010 to 2015.
Elon Musk decided to acquire Twitter in particular because he believes that the network does not sufficiently respect freedom of expression. But his absolutist vision worries defenders of everyone’s freedoms on the Internet, who advocate exchanges without hatred or misinformation. According to the news site PoliticoVijaya Gadde broke down in tears during an online meeting with his teams, gathered to discuss the change of ownership. “She expressed in detail her pride in the work of her colleagues and encouraged employees to continue their good work”says the article.
The initial tweet about him referred to Twitter’s decision to block the sharing of an article from the New York Post, a conservative American daily, during the presidential campaign because it violated its rules. The case had angered elected Republicans and the platform had relaxed the sanction. “Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for publishing a truthful story was, of course, incredibly inappropriate”said Elon Musk in commentary to this message.
“Creating memes targeting executives like Vijaya Gadde, who has a long career of finding the right balance between safety and freedom of expression (…), is completely unacceptable”, was indignant Alex Stamos, of the prestigious Stanford University, and former head of security at Facebook. “Officials at Elon’s other companies need to tell him he’s overstepping his bounds.” UltraViolet, a women’s rights NGO, called on the Californian group’s board of directors to reverse the agreement with the richest man in the world. “Elon Musk’s harassment of Vijaya Gadde is clear and unmistakable proof that his governance will open the doors wide to harassment and abuse, specifically against women and people of color.”said Bridget Todd, director of communications, in a press release.
“Harassment is not management”
The takeover agreement signed by Elon Musk expressly allows him to tweet about the deal, but with this restriction: “provided the tweets in question do not disparage the company or its representatives”. The boss of Tesla (electric cars), SpaceX (space exploration) and Neuralink (brain implants), among others, has gained several million subscribers in recent days, bringing his total to more than 86 million. Before the announcement of the takeover, he assured that he hoped that “same” his worst critics would stay on Twitter, because “this is what freedom of expression means”. On Tuesday, faced with the deluge of worried reactions, he added: “The secretion of antibodies from those who are afraid of free speech says it all”.
Parag Agrawal, the current leader of Twitter, expressed his support for the employees of the San Francisco group on Wednesday. “I am proud of the people who continue to do the job with focus and determination despite the noise all around”, he tweeted. Several American newspapers have relayed the concerns expressed internally by many employees at the idea that the richest man in the world, accustomed to provocations, leader of companies where unionization is discouraged, will take control.
According to the Bloomberg agency, since Monday, Twitter has prevented employees from making changes to the platform’s computer code without the agreement of a vice-president, to avoid any sabotage. Some fear in particular that Elon Musk will undo their work in terms of content moderation to protect users from abuse and violence. Because the boss of Tesla has several times in the past insulted people who did not agree with him, while his many fans do not hesitate to add to it. And his new responsibilities don’t seem to stop him.
On Tuesday, he also tweeted “It does not say anything good” commenting on a message accusing a Twitter lawyer, Jim Baker, of having facilitated a fraud.
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