'Free speech absolutist' Elon Musk bans free speech in European country
Musk has relented to government pressure calling for the censorship of political opponents' tweets.
Soon-to-be former Twitter CEO Elon Musk has all but banned free speech in Turkey, ahead of this Sunday's presidential election.
The eccentric tech billionaire has received much criticism over his gung-ho approach to moderating free speech on the social media site, with the Tesla and SpaceX CEO describing himself as a "free speech absolutist".
However, given his decision to censor dissenting political voices in Turkey, it appears Musk's absolutism is not as entrenched as his carefully cultivated persona would have you believe.
Bowing to pressure from incumbent Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Twitter has restricted access to the tweets and accounts of his political opponents, in fear of being banned in the country.
In a statement released by the platform, it said "In response to legal process and to ensure Twitter remains available to the people of Turkey, we have taken action to restrict access to some content in Turkey today".
President Erdogan, who has been President of Turkey since 2014, has consolidated power during his regime by removing the position of Prime Minister.
In response to legal process and to ensure Twitter remains available to the people of Turkey, we have taken action to restrict access to some content in Turkey today.
— Global Government Affairs (@GlobalAffairs) May 13, 2023
Having survived an attempted military coup in 2016, President Erdogan has cracked down on political opposition within the country by heavily censoring the nation's media.
This latest move to silence rival politicians is viewed as a desperate last-ditch attempt to cling to power, as he trails to the more moderate Kemal Kilicdaroglu by 5 percentage points in the latest polls.
Last night, Bloomberg journalist Matthew Yglesias tweeted his disapproval of Musk's decision to bow to Mr. Erdogan's wishes, stating that;
"The big problem with Twitter and free speech is that Musk has a much more significant business as the main shareholder of a major international car company that needs to curry favour with various regimes".
An irate Musk responded by commenting "Did your brain fall out of your head? The choice is have Twitter throttled in its entirety or limit access to some tweets. Which one do you want?"
Musk's censoring is made all the more contentious by the fact that his electric vehicle company is set to expand into the country, with plans underway for the mass construction of a supercharger network and various job listings for an Istanbul office already online.
With a population of 85 million people, but just under 500,000 electric car sales in 2022, the country presents huge economic opportunity for Tesla should they succeed in entering the marketplace.
It is this potential monetary link, alongside Musk's previously unwavering approach to free speech, which has seen the Twitter owner draw such scrutiny for undertaking the role of content moderator in the Turkish elections.
Onlookers will not have to wait long though to witness the extent of Musk's influence on the region. With polls set to close tonight, the impact of the decision to censor President Erdogan's objectors should be known by Monday.
- New figures reveal the true extent of HSE’s failings
- Dublin migrant camp damaged by fire amidst anti-refugee protests
- Tom Hanks strongly against rewriting classic books to cater for “modern sensitivities”
- Thousands of social welfare recipients owed money after error with cost of living payment