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The MRC Flips Over Elon Musk, Part 17: The Spin Never Ends

As bad news for Elon Musk's management of Twitter continued to pile up, the Media Research Center promoted his conspiracy theories and attacked his critics and new competitors.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 12/22/2023

Elon Musk

The Media Research Center has a history of ignoring bad news about Elon Musk and Twitter, but if it must be addressed, the goal is to find a way to dismiss it. And so it was with the swift emergence of Threads as a Twitter competitor. Autumn Johnson was dismissive of Threads in a July 6 post, largely because it is trying to do something about hate and misinformation:
Meta’s new “text-based conversation app” seeks to challenge Elon Musk’s Twitter in the next battle in the war between the Big Tech social media platforms.

The new app, Threads, debuted Wednesday appearing on Apple’s App Store. The app will link to Instagram, Meta’s photo-sharing app. “Whether you’re a creator or a casual poster, Threads offers a new, separate space for real-time updates and public conversations. We are working toward making Threads compatible with the open, interoperable social networks that we believe can shape the future of the internet,” reads the Meta announcement blog.

“First tech titan owners challenged each other to a real-life, MMA-style brawl,” said MRC Free Speech America Director Michael Morris, “but now it appears that battle has returned to the digital octagon. In one corner, we have the Twitter owner who purchased the platform and appears to be pushing Silicon Valley toward free speech in what he called the ‘digital town square.’ And in the other corner, we have the Meta owner who once promoted the notion of free speech at Georgetown University but continues to wield a massive censorship hammer to crush user speech online. Musk should continue leaning into free speech to provide an alternative to censorship, and since Zuckerberg seems so keen on copying Musk’s moves, he should make a move to his previous pro-free speech ways.”

Johnson acknowledged that Musk made missteps that opened up the opportunity for Threads, but she also made sure to attack the competition (and to dishonestly frame Musk's refusal to stop hate and misinformation on Twitter as somehow being "pro-free speech"):

The new Meta app is looking to capitalize on rival Twitter’s conversation-based design and potentially win over new users, especially since some of Musk’s recent pro-free speech changes at Twitter have appeared to enrage some on the left. Recent quota limitations for nonsubscribers, a temporary block on unregistered users and an upcoming TweetDeck paywall have also seemingly opened the way for Thread’s launch.

But Threads’ reputation is already under fire as a data security hazard, as TechCrunch has labeled the new app a “privacy nightmare.”

When Musk decided to change the name of Twitter to X for no apparent reason other than he always wanted to run a company named X, Johnson expressed concern on a July 25 post:

Elon Musk purchased Twitter under the auspice of maintaining free speech in a global town square, but amid news of a company rebrand, could the platform’s other anti-free speech policies and questionable leadership appointments taint Musk’s initial vision?

“It’s an exceptionally rare thing – in life or in business – that you get a second chance to make another big impression,” Yaccarino tweeted. “Twitter made one massive impression and changed the way we communicate. Now, X will go further, transforming the global town square.”

Although Musk himself has called for a pause in artificial intelligence development, according to Yaccarino, the new Twitter brand will be powered by it.

Johnson then huffed about "recent anti-free speech policy developments under Musk" that purportedly "paint a bleaker picture of his commitment to his original pro-free speech vision":

For example, Musk pushed forward with the troubling Twitter Community Notes, which are a crowdsourced alternative to professional fact-checking. And while some on the right appear to like the results better, the warning labels are still a form of censorship, albeit by a different name.

In November of last year, Musk described the social media platform’s speech policy as “freedom of speech, not reach,” implying some would be censored for certain views vaguely described as “hate speech.”

“New Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach,” he tweeted at the time. “Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter. You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically seek it out, which is no different from rest of Internet.”

It should be noted that Musk’s comments seem to mirror views expressed by [Twitter founder Jack] Dorsey.

ConWebWatch has noted how the MRC loved Community Notes when liberals were fact-checked under it, but decided it was "censorship" when conservatives were targeted.

Despite all the fretting, the MRC continued to default to Musk-fluffing. A July 20 post by Nicholas Schau complained that one of the MRC's most hated reporters pointed out how Musk's Twitter is paying far-right influencers:

The Washington Post cry-bully Taylor Lorenz did not hold back her extreme leftist complaining about Twitter’s new influencer payment program paying conservatives as well as liberals, and Twitter users did not hold back their criticism of her.

In a hysterically biased article published July 13, Lorenz lamented that “the first beneficiaries” of Twitter’s payment program “appear to be high-profile far-right influencers.” Lorenz further claimed, without evidence, that Twitter was “bribing” users to stay on the platform. Lorenz’s hissy fit came as many prominent Twitter users began to publicize their earnings. Lorenz’s article attempted to mislead its readers by completely ignoring the leftist Twitter users who also received payments from the social media giant. It wasn’t long, however, before she got caught.

Prominent Twitter users, including leftist journalists Ed and Brian Krassenstein, took to Twitter to call out Lorenz’s complaints as detailed in The Post article. “This article was very bad reporting on behalf of the Washington Post and Taylor Lorenz, and that's coming from someone who normally likes the WaPo,” said Ed Krassenstein, known for his tirades against Republicans, on July 14. Brian Krassenstein echoed his brother’s remarks, saying, “You might be reading the Washington Post article by Taylor Lorenz and be thinking, ‘But Brian Krassenstein made $24k from Elon and he's not far right’. All I can say is... I work out”.

Twitter owner and CTO Elon Musk had a short but sweet reaction to Lorenz’s piece on Twitter. “Liar Lorenz,” he tweeted in reply to the article’s headline. Twitter user End Wokeness also responded to Lorenz’s tantrum, tweeting: “Looks like we triggered Taylor Lorenz.”

Schau failed to mention that one of the far-right influencers cited by Lorenz as a beneficiary of Musk's largesse is Andrew Tate, who had recently been arrested on rape and human trafficking charges.

P.J. Gladnick parroted the MRC's dishonest framing of content moderation of falsehoods and misinformation as "censorship" in a July 21 post:

It's not hard to figure out what is keeping USA Today "domestic security correspondent: Josh Meyer awake at night. The gnawing fear that a lack of censorship could lead to disinformation being spread during the 2024 election. This is reflected in his sprawling 2,618-word USA Today article on Wednesday, "Amid Elon Musk's Twitter changes, why 2024 presidential election threats now pose bigger risk."

Their shortened version of the headline: "The 2024 election on Twitter: Are Elon Musk's changes posing a danger?"

What is the danger? "Misinformation," according to nebulous unnamed "lawmakers and regulators, former Twitter executives, national security officials and other analysts."


Of course, "misinformation" and "disinformation" often means just information that liberals and their media stenographers want to keep from the public. A two-sided exchange of information is "divisive."

The biggest throbbing example of this is the Hunter Biden laptop that was labeled as "disinformation" by 51 former intelligence officials which was used as justification to censor the New York Post story on this topic in the middle of the 2020 election. And yet despite this example of how censorship was used as a form of election interference, Meyer makes it clear that he wants to continue this odious process.

As ConWebWatch has pointed out, there was no reason to take the Hunter laptop story at face value given the partisan forces promoting it -- including the Rupert Murdoch-owned pro-Trump New York Post, which failed to offer any independent verification of the laptop that might have alleviated such concerns.

Attacking a critic

The MRC made sure to ignore even more bad news about Musk and Twitter:

  • Twitter reinstated the account of right-wing influencer Dom Lucre after he was banned for posting a video of a toddler being tortured.
  • Twitter also reinstated the account of Kanye West, also know as Ye, months after it was banned for posting an image of a swastika inside a Star of David.

Musk knew he had to change the narrative, so it was right-wing red-meat time. And the MRC's Luis Cornelio eagerly lapped it up in an Aug. 1 post:

An anti-free speech group had a meltdown after Elon Musk took legal action against the group’s research targeting X, formerly known as Twitter.

Imran Ahmed, the CEO of the infamous Center for Countering Digital Hate, and its Democrat allies have hysterically responded to a legal threat from Musk, the owner of X. Ahmed lamented that Musk is pushing back against the CCDH’s efforts to destroy the platform after Musk pledged to stand up for free speech. Disgraced Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) chimed in, whining that mass censorship is no longer reining on Twitter.

In a fiery letter, Musk’s attorneys issued an ultimatum to the CCDH, slamming the far-left organization’s research against the X platform. Musk argued that the CCDH is falsely accusing X of allowing so-called hate speech on its platform. The letter, as reported by The New York Times, called the research “false, misleading or both.” Similarly, in a blog post dated July 31, X blasted the CCDH for “actively working to”: “assert false and misleading claims encouraging advertisers to pause investment,” “prevent public dialogue” and “prevent free expression” by targeting individuals it doesn’t agree with.

Once again, Cornelio is dishonestly framing content moderation to address lies and misinformation as "censorship" while refusing to explain why lies and misinformation must be allowed to spread unchecked (if they further right-wing narratives, at least). Also, at no point does Cornelio cite Twitter or Musk providing any evidence that proves false anything CCDH has reported. Instead, he complained that Ahmed is responding to Musk by pointing out that he's effectively demanding that CCDH be censored:

Ahmed wrote an opinion article for MSNBC, whining that Musk is bullying him.“[Musk] is trying to silence the independent researchers at CCDH who are shining a light on the situation,” Ahmed further bellyached, referring to his group’s dubious research that hate speech is on the rise on X. “Musk and his legal team have engaged in an aggressive campaign to intimidate, bully and silence CCDH.”

In a brazen bout of hypocrisy, Ahmed further accused Musk of censoring CCDH, the exact sort of punishment CCDH seeks when accusing those it disagrees with of having spread so-called hate speech. Specifically, Ahmed claimed, “X’s legal threat is a brazen attempt to silence honest criticism and independent research, perhaps in a desperate hope that it can stem the tide of negative stories and rebuild the company's relationship with advertisers.”

Cornelio offered no proof that any bit of CCDH research about Twitter is "dubious," nor did he respond to anything else Ahmed said. He then admitted that his employer's attacks on CCDH are personal: "Just what has CCDH done in the past? In 2022, CCDH classified the Media Research Center, among others, as one of the 'Toxic Ten' of alleged climate 'misinformation.'" As ConWebWatch documented at the time, the MRC never rebutted anything in the CCDH report, instead merely demonstrating just how thin-skinned it is about criticism, smearing CCDH as "digital brownshirts."

Catherine Salgado touted a Republican attack on CCDH in an Aug. 7 post:

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is requesting information from an anti-free speech nonprofit over potential censorship collusion with the federal government.

X (formerly known as Twitter) accused the UK- and U.S.-based Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) of hurting Twitter’s advertising through false claims of rising hate speech in a lawsuit last week. Now Jordan is asking for information on “the interactions between the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) and the federal government in particular, as well as between CCDH and social media companies.”

Dated August 3, the letter called out leftist CCDH CEO Imran Ahmed and his group for “appear[ing] to have played a role” in President Joe Biden’s “censorship regime by advising the government and social media companies on so-called ‘misinformation’ and other types of content— sometimes with direct or indirect support or approval from the federal government.”

The letter argued that anti-free speech efforts in coordination with the government, whether “directly or indirectly,” is “a grave threat to the First Amendment.” Jordan specifically zeroed in on CCDH’s COVID-19-era report on “The Disinformation Dozen,” which led to censorship of users like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that CCDH labeled as prominent “anti-vaxxers.”

Salgado, like Cornelio, failed to explain why lies and misinformation -- especially about an important health issue like COVID -- must never be countered. Nor did she explain that Kennedy is very much an anti-vaxxer, and he has indisputably spread lies and misinformation about vaccines. Salgado also showed no curiosity about why Jordan is working to weaponize government against a critic at the apparent request of a wealthy man like Musk.

And like Cornelio, Salgado whined that "CCDH included Media Research Center in its November 2021 'Toxic Ten' report of the top spreaders of supposed 'climate change denial'" without mentioning that her employer didn't dispute anything CCDH said about it. She also made sure to note that her boss, Brent Bozell, "previously called CCDH 'digital brownshirts.'" Gotta make sure to smear a critic while cheering how Musk is targeting it.

Promoting Musk's conspiracy theory

The MRC was silent about Musk signing a pledge that his company Tesla will abide by China's "core socialist values," which in no small part means never criticizing the Chinese government. That was something even Fox News called him out on -- but not the MRC, even though it loves to bash TikTok for being too close to the Chinese government, or CCP in MRC parlance. (You might recall that it was less than two years ago that the MRC actually criticized Musk for being too cozy with China -- but that was before he got interested in buying Twitter.) It will, however, be his servile stenographer for pretty much anything else. John Simmons cheered Musk spouting a COVID conspiracy theory in a July 26 post:

LeBron James’ son, Bronny, suffered cardiac arrest on Monday while working out at the University of Southern California (USC) and was rushed to the ICU. Thankfully, he's now out of the hospital and is in stable condition, but it's still unclear what the cause of this situation was.

However, many online users have suggested that because Bronny took the COVID-19 vaccine, he might have suffered the effects of it just now.

No one more prominent than "X" CEO Elon Musk subscribed to this theory, saying that while it can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at this point whether the vaccine had anything to do with it, he believes it can’t be disproven, either.


Naturally, there was a strong contingent of Twitter users who also responded by saying that it's unlikely that Musk’s hypothesis is correct, since not everyone who gets the vaccine experiences significant heart failure after taking it. But in an age where “conspiracy theorists” are often proven correct despite media and progressive mob backlash, one has to wonder if the "X" CEO is on to something.

In fact, it was found that Bronny James had a congenital heart defect that was likely responsible for his cardiac arrest. Neither Musk nor Simmons have apologized for spreading misinformation, nor have they corrected the record.

Nicholas Schau eagerly typed up another piece of right-wing red meat from Musk in an Aug. 8 post:

X owner Elon Musk made a bold pledge to the victims of corporate cancel culture.

Musk, in yet another win for free speech, offered to stand behind employees of various companies who were mistreated for exercising free speech on his social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter). Musk, in an Aug. 5 post on X, said, “If you were unfairly treated by your employer due to posting or liking something on this platform, we will fund your legal bill.”

In addition, Musk added that there is “no limit” to the legal bill that he and his team would cover for Americans who were forced to face cancel culture in the workplace.


Posting on Twitter is notoriously risky in today’s easily triggered corporate culture and has led to a number of high-profile terminations.

Schau failed to mention that the vast majority of Americans are employed under at-will conditions, meaning a person can be legally fired from a job for any reason or no reason -- which covers offensive tweets. (At-will employment is a policy conservatives like Schau generally like.) Further, a person's social media presence tends to reflect on the employer, so if a person does or likes offensive things on social media, that reflects poorly on the employer, thereby offering just cause for termination.

Gabriela Pariseau took the stance that it's not censorship when Musk does it in an Aug. 16 post:

The Washington Post is now hypocritically crying out about censorship. Where was its clarion call when the New York Post Hunter Biden scandal got censored?

The Washington Post accused X (formerly Twitter) of extending the time it takes to load links to certain websites after a user clicks on them in an August 15 article. “The delayed websites included X’s online rivals Facebook, Instagram, Bluesky and Substack, as well as the Reuters wire service and [The New York] Times,” The Washington Post claimed. However, it is unclear how The Post obtained this information and isolated X as the source of the problem as the outlet did not include a methodology in the piece and did not respond to Media Research Center’s multiple inquiries.

“The day that @washingtonpost alleges that @elonmusk is causing a 5 second delay to load its stories, Apple deletes ALL of @glennbeck's podcasts,” said MRC Free Speech America Vice President Dan Schneider in a tweet. “Not holding my breath waiting for WashPo's angry coverage of left-wing Apple.”

The Washington Post is claiming, without evidence, that Elon Musk is in effect playing favorites and censoring its leftist internet buddies,” said MRC Free Speech America Director Michael Morris. “Apparently, for The Washington Post, censorship is only a funny joke when it’s happening to conservatives.”

The newspaper cited the forum Hacker News, which reportedly first noticed the alleged trend on August 4 after Musk made posts calling The Times an “apologist” for the leader of South Africa’s “racial genocide” and encouraging people to cancel their subscriptions. The Times allegedly also noticed the trend and a dip in its traffic, according to The Washington Post. The outlet claimed that the delays disappeared after The Washington Post published its article. However, the article included no screen recording of what these delays looked like or a methodology affirming the accuracy of its claims.

While the article never outright called the alleged link loading delays “censorship,” its writers did emphasize that Musk calls himself a “free speech absolutist” and cited The Times’ hypocritical reaction to the news. “While we don’t know the rationale behind the application of this time delay, we would be concerned by targeted pressure applied to any news organization for unclear reasons,” said Times spokesman Charlie Stadtlander.

Despite all the doubt Pariseau tried to throw at the Post's article -- whining that there was "no screen recording of what these delays looked like or a methodology affirming the accuracy of its claims" -- she failed to note that the article also noted that former Twitter official Yoel Roth posted at Bluesky that he was able to replicate the same effect. She also failed to mention that Musk has a history of messing with the links posted by its users -- for instance, blocking links to Substack for a while after it announced it would start its own Twitter-esque feature. Instead, Pariseau continued to play whataboutism:

But both The Times and The Washington Post have repeatedly shown no concern, and in fact, have downplayed censorship of outlets that they disagree with. The most prominent example would be The Times dismissing the social media companies that suppressed the Hunter Biden laptop scandal just ahead of the 2020 election.


So much for free speech. It seems The Washington Post claims biased censorship when its friends are in the crossfire, but it doesn’t seem to care much for free speech when its critics are silenced.
Pariseau did not explain why social media outlets are not allowed to engage in content moderation to combat misinformation and lies (which she dishonestly frames as "censorship"), nor does she explain why misinformation and lies must be allowed to spread uncorrected. And, again, the right-wing New York Post could have avoided content moderation issues had it provided independent verification of the laptop that would have overcome concerns about it being a wildly biased pro-Trump rag. Semafor later reported that Twitter appears to be throttling New York Times-related content; no one at the MRC called this "censorship."

A July 25 post by Gabriela Pariseau touted a "Twitter files" installment starring the MRC's favorite vaccine conspiracy theorist-slash-Democratic presidential candidate: "The latest Twitter Files installments implicated a new culprit in the assault against Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s free speech and provided evidence that government requests to censor were more like orders." Autumn Johnson served up more stenography for Taibbi in an Aug. 4 post:

Twitter Files journalist Matt Taibbi sounded the alarm on government collusion with Big Tech in a recent discussion with the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.

Taibbi discussed his initial bombshell findings blowing the lid off the backdoor channels that the government used to coordinate censorship with Big Tech in addition to the impact the discoveries had on his life. Taibbi said he was “thankful,” for the Missouri v. Biden lawsuit that reached the same conclusions about the Biden administration’s collusion with Big Tech that he did, albeit independently. The bombshell lawsuit cited original research database to track the extent of Big Tech's efforts to censor Biden detractors. When asked what Twitter Files finding surprised him the most, Taibbi said he and his team were shocked to see that the U.S. government “briefed” social media companies on world trends like the war in Ukraine. “That was shocking to me because that showed the entire arrangement in one picture,” he said.

Taibbi also warned against the jargon used by Big Tech social media companies, like the term “de-amplify,” that in reality is just censorship.


The Twitter Files continue to expose intentional censorship efforts by the government overwhelmingly. MRC Free Speech America reported last month that the latest Twitter Files drop by Andrew Lowenthal, author of the Network Affects Substack, implicated members of the United States government in colluding with Big Tech social media platforms to censor Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Johnson refused to tell readers that Kennedy is a discredited conspiracy theorist or that Taibbi is no longer part of Musk's "Twitter files" project.

Salgado gushed that Donald Trump returned to Twitter after his (fourth) indictment in an Aug. 25 post:

Former President Donald Trump has returned to Twitter, now called X, two years after the platform banned him.

Trump was arrested Thursday in Fulton County, Georgia, on highly controversial charges related to his challenging the officially announced 2020 election results. After his arrest, Trump released his mugshot both on his own TruthSocial platform and on X with the message “ELECTION INTERFERENCE NEVER SURRENDER!” It was Trump’s first tweet since he was “permanently banned” in Jan. 2021.

In Dec. 2022, The Twitter Files revealed what happened behind the scenes when the platform banned then-President Trump in January 2021. Employees compared him to Hitler, despite internal assessments that Trump had not violated the platform’s rules, according to screenshots included in The Twitter Files. The Twitter Files on the platform’s rule-twisting against Trump came soon after the platform’s new owner, Elon Musk, restored Trump’s account.

Musk himself quote-tweeted Trump’s mugshot with the comment, “Next-level.”

Salgado didn't mention that Trump's "NEVER SURRENDER!" tweet was accompanied with a mugshot taken when he was literally surrendering to justice. Instead, she gushed further that "Trump’s X post of his mugshot has already gained 154 million views, 1.2 million likes, and 287,000 reposts as of the publication of this piece."

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