Elon Musk, the world’s
richest man
, now in command of a giant social media company, likes to call
himself a “free speech absolutist”. In a statement announcing his acquisition
of Twitter on Monday, Musk said, “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning
, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the
future of humanity are debated.”

The Tesla and
SpaceX CEO has often characterised himself as an advocate of free speech and
the First Amendment. Musk, once, defended himself in a lawsuit after calling a
cleric a “pedo guy” and won the case.

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When some
governments apparently asked Starlink to block Russian news sources, Musk said,
the company won’t do so unless at gunpoint. “Sorry to be a free speech

However, Musk’s
free speech is less than absolute, as evidenced in his approach to questions
such as his employees’ free speech, according to a CNBC report.

The report states
that when Tesla laid off employees, it made them sign separation agreements
including a strong non-disparagement clause. While common in industry, Musk’s
free speech commitment seems to falter here.

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According to an employee
who was sacked in 2018, who spoke to CNBC, the non-disparagement clause stated:
“You agree not to disparage Tesla, the Company’s products, or the Company’s
directors, employees, shareholders and agents, affiliates and subsidiaries in any
manner likely to be harmful to them or their business, business reputation or
personal reputation.”

The contract
further required workers to not disclose the provisions of the agreement to
anyone other than their lawyer, close family members or accountant, not even to
fellow workers. It further stated: “In particular, and without limitation, you
agree not to disclose the terms of this agreement to any current or former
Company employee or contractor.”

Further, Musk is
also alleged to have attempted to exercise control over journalists, bloggers,
analysts and researchers analysing his business operations. The billionaire and
his car company, Tesla, have been accused of asking reporters to sign
non-disclosure agreements or show story drafts before publishing.

Musk has also
called upon his followers to edit his Wikipedia page. On December 23, 2019,
Musk tweeted, “Just looked at my wiki for the 1st time in years. It’s
insane! Btw, can someone please delete “investor”. I do basically zero
investing. The billionaire doesn’t even tolerate his fans criticising Tesla’s

Going further,
Tesla has also made it a point to shut down customers who seek to criticise the
company’s products on social media. Last year, Tesla asked customers to agree
not to post critical comments on social media about FSD Beta, an experimental
driver assistance software package. In China, Tesla has taken legal action
against car owners who complained about safety.