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The MRC Flips Over Elon Musk, Part 19: Unhappy Anniversary

As the first anniversary of Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter approached, the Media Research Center ignored bad news and Musk's pettiness to cheer Musk's continued gutting of Twitter staff and show a double standard about war misinformation.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 2/16/2024

There was a lot of unfavorable news regarding Elon Musk and Twitter (well, X) in the early fall:
  • Musk rushed to the defense of credibly accused rapist, sexual assaulter and groomer Russell Brand.
  • In yet another attack on George Soros, Musk spread the racist right-wing "great replacement theory," which posits that nefarious interests (i.e., Soros and Democrats) want to replace white people in the U.S. with non-white immigrants.
  • He helped incite harassment and death threats on a Las Vegas newspaper and its journalists by falsely accusing the paper of hiding that the death of a bicycle rider killed after being hit by a car was intentionally caused.
  • He smeared tech journalist Kara Swisher, blaming her for the disastrous performance of Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino in an interview at a Swisher-hosted tech conference.
  • Musk was sued for defamation by a man whom he falsely described as a federal agent posing as a neo-Nazi (the man is actually Jewish).

Rather than tell its readers about any of this -- even though it too has defended Russell Brand and has insisted that replacement theory isn't racist or a conspiracy theory -- the Media Research Center instead was annoyed that Musk wasn't letting anti-trans hate spread on Twitter even more than it already does. After vicious homophobe Chaya Raichik of Libs of TikTok complained that her hate wasn't spreading, Musk was compelled to respond, as Tom Olohan stated in an Sept. 28 post:

After the woman behind Libs of TikTok uncovered inexplicable censorship of content on the X platform, owner Elon Musk promised to look into it.

Libs of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik wrote in a post on Thursday that X (formerly known as Twitter) would not run ads on posts that contained words such as “Gr**m*er”, “Dr*g qu**n”, “In*0c**ce/in*0ce*t”, “Tr*ns” and even “Am*n”, but would run ads on her posts if she self-censored. Later that day, X owner Musk mentioned her by name and promised to cut that list down to size. Musk said in a video, “There’s a list, I think, Chaya Raichik was pointing out. Like, the system, you know, and I have looked at this list. And some of the terms on the list, I’m like, ‘Look, if that’s a bad word, I clearly need to look up, ge Urban Dictionary or something,’ you know, because that one I didn’t realize was a bad word. So that list needs to be trimmed. That’s the, sort of, not safe for advertising list.”


Immediately preceding these remarks, Musk strongly suggested that much of the current censorship that occurs on his platform is a holdover from the past Twitter regime that is being eradicated. “We do lots of dumb things, but these dumb things, you know, as the saying goes, ‘One should not attribute to malice that which easily can be explained by incompetence,’” Musk added before discussing demonetization. “We do lots of foolish things, but, and we want to fix that. And a bunch of these foolish things have been in place for a decade, you know, and I can’t fix them all at once. And we are fixing them.” 

Noting that both Elon Musk and X CEO Linda Yaccarino have embraced the expression “freedom of speech, not of reach,” MRC Vice President Dan Schneider challenged Musk to go further, “How about instead of trimming the list of unacceptable words, you just protect all constitutionally-protected speech?”

Olohan added that "Previously, Musk has reversed the platform's bans on 'deadnaming' and 'misgendering' two leftist words used to describe telling the truth about 'transgender' individuals." If Ohohan is putting "transgender" in scare quotes, he clearly doesn't care about truth.

Because Musk cares so much about gaining the approval of right-wing haters and extremists, he acquiesced to Raichik's demands, which Olohan gushed over in a post the next day:

After promising to take action against demonetized terms on his platform, X owner Elon Musk ended censorship of several key words the next day. 

Libs of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik posted on Sept. 29 that seven out of ten of the demonetized words she discovered on a day prior no longer triggered post demonetization. Words like drag queen, groomer, innocence, innocent, LGBTQ, police, non-binary and Amen no longer result in post demonetization, but trans and ugly will, noted Raichik. However, Musk promised Friday to end the demonetization of tweets with the word(s): trans, transgender and ugly.

Musk, who thanked Raichik for flagging the censorship, addressed the censorship issue in his posts and during a discussion hosted by The Daily Wire editor emeritus Ben Shapiro, where he said that the list of demonetized terms found by Raichik should be “trimmed.” He also suggested that these shadowbanned words were an example of “foolish things” from the past that his employees were in the process of fixing.

In an article published Thursday evening, Raichik discussed her discovery and broke down why the terms were demonetized. Raichik pointed out that drag queen, groomer, innocence, and innocent were likely demonetized to disincentivize conservative organizing against gender theory in schools and children at drag queen events.

Or, you know, it could be about disincentivizing vicious and irrational right-wing hatred of anyone who's not a heterosexual. Olohan and Raichik don't seem to consider that possibility.

In another Sept. 29 post, Luis Cornelio cheered how Musk opened the door to even more election misinformation on Twitter by firing much of its election integrity team, under the sneering headline "Bye Felicia!":

X owner Elon Musk announced he was doing away with part of his platform’s infamous “election integrity” team—sort of.

According to The Information on Sept. 27, the social media platform reportedly ousted five anti-free speech activists from its contentious election integrity team. Musk took to Twitter to react to the reports, confirming that the individuals were “gone.”

Among those affected by the purge was notorious disinformation chief Aaron Rodericks who came under fire last month in mid-August for undermining Musk’s promise to protect free speech.

Cornelio didn't explain how lies and disinformation equaled "free speech." Instead, he whined that Yaccarino "chimed in to dispel rumors that the company was completely getting rid of the group, effectively dousing pro-free speech advocates with a bucket of cold water":

Yaccarino warned that the best of their election integrity — whatever that means — is yet to come. “It’s an issue we take very seriously,” she claimed while speaking at a conference hosted by leftist outlet Vox. “And contrary to the comments that were made, there is a robust and growing team at X that is wrapping their arms around election integrity.”

The election integrity faction at X first came under scrutiny after political commentator Kristen Ruby found that X — under Rodericks’ oversight — sought to hire new disinformation experts, marking what Foundation For Freedom Online executive director Mike Benz described as a “new crop of censorship shills.”

Again, Cornelio wouldn't explain how trying to stop lies and misinformation is "censorship." Does he think lies and misinformation must never be fact-checked or criticized?

Meanwhile, even more bad and unsavory news about Musk and Twitter to piled up:

  • Musk stole the @music username without compensation from a user with half a million followers who had been using the account since 2007. 
  • More than 2,200 Twitter employees Musk dumped in a mass firing after he bought the company took their claims for promised severance pay into arbitration, but Twitter has refused to pay the filing fees -- totaling more than $3 million -- that would allow those arbitration cases to move forward.
  • The Twitter account of a man accused of murdering a woman over a Pride flag was originally allowed to stay live even though the alleged killer made numerous anti-LGBTQ and anti-Semitic messages on it, insisting that the account didn't violate its policies. It was not until a story was published about that decision that Twitter abruptly suspended it.
  • Musk is continuing to amplify the Twitter accounts of QAnon conspiracy theorists and white nationalists by interacting with them through his own account.

Again, the MRC doesn't want its readers to know about any of that -- it has Musk PR to create. Luis Cornelio wrote in an Oct. 3 post:

President Joe Biden whined that X (formerly known as Twitter) is not as aggressively engaging in widespread censorship of constitutionally protected free speech.

Speaking to the leftist zealots at ProPublica on Oct. 1, Biden accused, without evidence, X owner Elon Musk and right-leaning media outlets of igniting an imaginary increase of misinformation online. In the same disturbing interview, Biden claimed — again with no evidence — that Americans can’t differentiate real news from fake news. “Where do people get their news?” Biden asked before answering his own question, “They go on the internet, they go online and you have no notion whether it's true or not.”

The increase in misinformation on Twitter isn't imaginary at all. The shutdown by Musk of trust and safety teams and the revoking of bans on accounts who spread hate and misinformation, as well as rendering the blue check meaningless as a sign of credibility, meant that misinformation and hate has, in fact, increased on Twitter. But rather than address facts, Cornelio cheered that Musk insulted Biden: 

Musk, known for his witty and hilarious clapbacks, reacted to Biden’s claims, saying, “The corpse in Weekend at Bernie’s literally looks more alive than Biden.” His response, a reference to a 1989 comedy film where two individuals parade their dead boss around, marked a direct jab at Biden’s cognizance.

Cornelio didn't explain how Musk's petulant insult was either witty or hilarious. He then chose to hurl some insults of his own:

Biden’s assertions came during the segment where journalist John Harwood claimed that Fox News, alongside other outlets that do not conform to White House talking points, are a danger to democracy (or in other words, the Democratic Party). Specifically, he asked, “Do they drive the threat that you're concerned about? Are they simply reflecting a sentiment that already exists in the country?” In turn, Biden replied, “They do both. Look, there’re no editors anymore.”

Doing the left’s bidding, Harwood then drew attention to Musk’s promise to promote free speech on X. “What about what Elon Musk has done to Twitter, lowering guardrails against misinformation? Does that contribute to it?” the so-called journalist asked. “Yeah, it does,” Biden replied before claiming that he was going to write a book about the changing media landscape. “Look, one of the things that I said to you when I thought I wasn't going to run, I was going to write a book about the changes taking place.”

Who would’ve thought that Biden — notoriously known for his incoherent and gaffe-plagued speeches, was also a social media and communications expert? “Most of this directed over the years were these fundamental changes in society by changing technology, Gutenberg, printing and the printing press changed the way Europeans could talk to one another, all the way to today,” Biden claimed.

Again, Cornelio refused to address the substance of what Biden and Harwood were talking about -- and he certainly wasn't going to bring up the fact that Fox News did, in fact, help endanger democracy by lying to its viewers and the country about election fraud, for which it had to pay Dominion $787 million to settle a defamation lawsuit. Then again, Cornelio isn't much of a social media and communications expert either, given his embrace of lies and hate on social media because not only they advance right-wing narratives, it's a right-wing narrative to dishonestly portray any efforts to address hate and misinformation online as "censorship."

The fact that Cornelio would rather play insult comic instead of having a serious discussion of how Musk is mismanging Twitter tells us he doesn't actually care about "free speech" at all -- he's only interested in being Musk's PR boy.

Double standard on war misinfo
Twitter (well, X) hasn't exactly covered itself in glory during the Israel-Hamas war. Given how Musk gutted Twitter's anti-disinformation teams in the months before the war started, the inevitable happened: Twitter was awash with disinformation about the war in the days after it started, with old and fake photos and even footage from video games being presented as dispatches from the front lines. And even after the disinformation has been identified, Twitter allowed the accounts spreading it to remain active, while there have been massive delays in putting "Community Notes" fact-checks on the false posts. Musk actually made things worse by promoting accounts filled with falsehoods and disinformation (not to mention anti-Semitism), including a fake video falsely attacking CNN. (He was ultimately shamed into deleting his post promoting the anti-Semitic account as a "good" source.)

The MRC is cool with all of this -- it wants misinformation to spread unchecked, and it attacks any effort to try and stem it as "censorship." When Business Insider pointed out all this information, Catherine Salgado spent an Oct. 11 post playing whataboutism:

As the devastating Hamas-Israel War rages on, Business Insider launched an attack of a different kind against Elon Musk and X—while failing its own anti-“misinformation” standards.

Palestinian Hamas terrorists invaded Israel over the weekend, committing appalling atrocities and killing at least 1,200 Israelis, acts which the Palestinian Authority (PA) refused to condemn. X (formerly Twitter) has been a hotspot for citizens, officials and war victims to share video and images, but Business Insider asserted that “misinformation” is “rife” on the platform.

Yet, even while screeching that “Social media has never felt more dangerous,” Insider’s Hasan Chowdhury called terrorists “Hamas fighters” and never mentioned any of the Hamas atrocities. In fact, the word “terrorist” doesn’t appear once in his entire article.

Chowdhury described the horrific Hamas attack without even mentioning that Hamas had killed anyone. “Hamas fighters crossed the border into Israel on Saturday, prompting Israeli forces to respond with air strikes on Gaza,” wrote this supposed champion of truth. These are the “fighters” who beheaded babies and soldiers and gunned down entire families. But, according to Chowdhury, who scraped up a mere three examples of the alleged misinformation epidemic for his piece, it’s Elon Musk spreading fake news.

“Some of the worst offenders are those who pay for visibility and verification through Twitter Blue, now known as X Premium,” Chowdhury announced. He particularly slammed Musk, “The billionaire directed his 159 million X followers to two social-media accounts that previously posted fake news.” Why is Chowdhury the arbiter on online truth, especially when he described terrorists as “fighters”?

At no point did Salgado offer any comment about the spread of disinformation about the war on Musk's Twitter. Instead, the MRC was busy doing PR for Musk. Joseph Vazquez gushed in an Oct. 9 post under the lionizing headline "ENTER ELON":

X owner Elon Musk called out the Supreme Leader of Iran for his disgusting celebration of the terrorist group Hamas and its barbaric attack on Israel. 

Musk — instead of going along with absurd liberal media narrative attempting to draw a false equivalency between Israel and Palestine — went straight for the jugular: “Khamenei’s official position is clear that the eradication of Israel is the actual goal, not just supporting Palestinians.” In Musk’s view, “That will not happen. All that actually happens, decade after decade, is a never-ending cycle of violence and vengeance.” MRC President Brent Bozell praised Musk for standing against the Iranian tyrant. “Elon Musk isn't afraid to speak the truth," Bozell said. "He doesn't hide behind his companies or use his platform to promote a woke agenda like many CEOs. He actually uses his voice to hold tyrannical anti-Semites accountable."

Vazquez also stated that "Khamenei's post clearly violates X rules against the 'Glorification of Violence,' as the platform clearly outlined in a label placed over Khamenei’s post." But earlier this year, Salgado specifically criticized this policy, insisting that "This issue with this Twitter policy is that it can very easily be misapplied" and declaring, "Elon Musk’s Twitter should be wary of being too vague or subjective in its policies, as missteps could seriously damage Twitter’s recent pro-free speech trend." Vazquez tried to get around this by quoting a co-worker:

Finally, Twitter has an owner who understands the difference between true incitements to violence and constitutionally protected speech,' praised MRC Business Vice President Dan Schneider in a statement. Schneider also blasted Musk’s dystopian predecessors at Old Regime Twitter for their sordid double standard of consistently allowing the Ayatollah to spread incitements to violence on the platform while repeatedly targeting Americans’ speech on the platform for the non-crime of expressing differing opinions on a myriad of issues (e.g. elections, COVID-19, culture) that slap against approved, left-wing axiomatic views:

The Big Tech oligarchs have long protected the Ayatollah Khamenei’s incitement to violence rhetoric; language that is clearly not constitutionally-protected speech. Yet at the same time, these Big Tech oligarchs have taken down political speech that they happen to disagree with.

But under the same logic, the ayatollah is also expressing "differing opinions," and the MRC's free-speech absolutism should allow his views to stand.

An Oct. 13 post by Luis Cornelio touted more actions by Musk that, under different circumstances, he would call "censorship":

Elon Musk’s X (formerly known as Twitter) took forceful actions against Hamas-tied accounts ahead of the disturbing “Day of Jihad.”

While leftist platforms like YouTube allow Hamas terrorists to call for a day of against Israel with impunity, X began purging accounts tied to Hamas. The rabid terrorist group unleashed a string of attacks against Israel that left over 1,300 Israeli citizens dead, in addition to numerous Americans. X CEO Linda Yaccarino announced the move in a three-page letter posted on the platform.

“We are deeply troubled by the large-scale and unprecedented terrorist attack on Israel and by the loss of innocent lives,” Yaccacino said on Oct. 11 in response to a letter from E.U. Commissioner Thierry Breton. Breton pressed companies earlier this week about their efforts to curtail Hamas’ reach. “There is no such place on X for terrorist organizations or violent extremist groups and we continue to remove such accounts in real time, including proactive efforts,” she added.

By contrast, the MRC complained that Twitter deleted all posts referring to a "transgender day of vengeance" earlier this year, raging that "The 'Trans Day of Vengeance' censorship event alone accounted for no less than 14 million times that users were harmed from Big Tech censorship." What the MRC wouldn't disclose is that Twitter blocked all posts referencing the alleged event, including ones from right-wing transphobes. Again, the MRC is exhibiting a double standard.

Salgado returned for another Oct. 13 post attacking Breton -- whom Cornelio had just praised -- for advocating "censorship," appearing to argue that Hamas shouldn't be "censored" after all:

A European Union (EU) Commission official has taken a page from the U.S. government’s anti-free speech playbook and demanded that multiple social media companies step up their censorship. 

In an Oct. 11 letter posted to X (formerly Twitter), Belgian EU Commissioner Thierry Breton insisted that Facebook and Instagram’s parent company Meta take “diligent and objective action following notices of illegal content in the EU.” Breton pointed to content regarding the “terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas against Israel” but did not clarify what he meant by “illegal content.” He also insisted Meta should be “tackling disinformation in the context of elections,” in accord with the EU Digital Services Act (DSA), a direct censorship request. The commissioner was yet more condescending in a letter to X/Twitter, accusing the platform of “disseminat[ing] illegal content and disinformation.” TikTok received a similar lecture. Breton even threatened all the tech companies by stating that “penalties can be imposed” for non-compliance. Did Breton take note of how effectively censorship was used in America to shield government officials and candidates?

“European liberal elites learned from the United States’ deep state how to suppress a story on how to save their skins in the next election based on how effective it was to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story,” said MRC Free Speech America VP Dan Schneider in reaction to the letters. “They’re trying to hide their own complicity and anti-Semitism as European voters wake up to the horrors of the Hamas regime.”

Salgado's so-called proof was the MRC's conspiracy theory that alleged suppression of the laptop story caused Trump to lose, based on dubious polls it bought from Trump's election pollster and a polling firm founded by Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.

Still, bad news and overall pettiness continued to pile up:

  • For some reason, Musk felt the need to stage an photo op at the border, during which he may have worn a cowboy hat backwards and his livestream was riddled with glitches.
  • People hate that headlines were removed from stories embedded in Twitter posts because Musk insisted that doing so will "greatly improve the esthetics."
  • It was revealed that Musk's actions in managing Twitter largely followed recommendations of an anonymous manifesto that appeared on a right-wing website.
  • Musk petulantly removed the verification badge from the New York Times' Twitter feed.
  • Twitter itself is becoming a black hole of value as advertisers flee the platform amid the explosion of extremism.

Unsurprisingly, the MRC cared absolutely nothing about this -- it's Musk's PR operation, after all, and he must be promoted and defended. Clay Waters rushed to Musk's defense in an Oct. 15 post about a PBS "Frontline" documentary on Musk:

On the newest episode of tax-supported PBS’s notorious left-wing series Frontline, they spent two hours obsessing over Elon Musk's Twitter takeover. Twitter was never this problematic when it was colluding with the Democrats and the media to suppress conservative speech. Now they're forwarding former Twitter censor Yoel Roth's ridiculous denials of the platform's ideological bias before Musk.

Correspondent James Jacoby traced space entrepreneur Elon Musk's journey from “provocative” Twitter user to sole owner of the social media platform (which he renamed “X”). Jacobs provided a mixed bag of a report, but did draw out Twitter’s former “trust and safety” guy Yoel Roth to make some ridiculous denials of the platform’s ideological bias.

The episode opened with an ominous montage of quotes from Musk critics, including Roth saying “harassment has increased” since Musk’s takeover. That was followed by showing a 2018 launch of one of Musk’s SpaceX reusable rockets, with Jacoby foreshadowing that Musk “provided running commentary at his favorite place to express himself: the social media site Twitter.” (Musk’s would purchase Twitter in 2022 and rename it X).

Musk is being investigated for having too much influence in the "wrong direction" in a time of "deep division."

Waters went on to whine that former Twitter official Yoel Roth -- whose harassment by Musk and Donald Trump, which prompted him to flee his home over fears of violence, the MRC disgustingly cheered -- pointed out the right-wing anti-Twitter narrative before Musk entered the picture:

Jacoby did question Yoel Roth, former head of “trust and safety” at Twitter, taking conservative complaints about free-speech suppression on Twitter more seriously than most mainstream journalists. At one point he asked Roth: “How did you think about your role as sort of an arbiter of truth?....But it does put you at Twitter in the uncomfortable position of having to kind of determine something as misinformation, determine something as being a lie.”

Isaacson took up for his colleagues in the mainstream media: “But it was mostly a signal that [Musk] had joined that, I'd call it the somewhat conspiratorial people on the right who feel that the media and the establishment are imposing a narrative on us.” Yet Isaacson actually conceded a “conspiratorial” point, that Musk was “noticing that on Twitter if you said that lockdowns could cause more harm than good, you'd be kind of repressed on Twitter. So this made him upset.”

Waters didn't explain how right-wingers like him and the MRC who repeatedly lashed out at pre-Musk Twitter were not "conspiratorial people."
Waters returned to whine in an Oct. 22 post that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman was promoting Twitter alternatives:

Since there’s evidently nothing else going on in the world worth commenting on, economist turned partisan hack columnist Paul Krugman is again going after the left's current public enemy No. 1, Elon Musk and his ownership of X (formerly Twitter).

Krugman wrote a similar column-length rant in December 2022 about how Twitter was doomed under Musk’s leadership, under the headline“Why Petulant Oligarchs Rule Our World,” concluding by pushing his own esteemed presence on new X-type “micro-blogging” platform, Mastodon. (You remember Mastodon, right? Even with encouraging press coverage, the platform is still far behind X in regular users.)

In his latest column, “Can Twitter, uh, X, Survive Elon Musk?” Krugman, for some reason, doesn’t even mention Mastodon, and indeed he doesn’t appear as active there as he is on X, perhaps because his followers haven’t followed him there (he has 41,000 Mastodon followers vs. 4.5 million on X, a disparity of over 100 to 1). This time around, Krugman suggests the hot new sites that will overtake Twitter are Threads and/or Bluesky.[...]

But so far those “network externalities” Krugman talked about are holding up. Despite Musk’s seemingly capricious changes to the platform, X is still where the mass audience Krugman wants to reach remains, and so far they are not following him anywhere else. Perhaps more trademark stellar Krugman prophecy is required to find the killer app that will finally take down X?

Actually, the number of active Twitter users in the U.S. has dropped 18 percent in the year since Musk bought it, so it's not so much of the "mass audience" Waters believes is still there.

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