The presidential election in Turkey on Saturday was highly contested, and as a result, the Turkish government made legal requests to Twitter to restrict access to certain content.
Twitter complied with these requests, which led to some criticism of CEO Elon Musk. Some observers accused Musk, who is known for advocating for free speech, of being a “free speech opportunist” for complying with the Turkish government’s demands.
In response to one such criticism, Musk tweeted, “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?”
Did your brain fall out of your head, Yglesias? The choice is have Twitter throttled in its entirety or limit access to some tweets. Which one do you want?— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 13, 2023
Representative Adam Schiff of California expressed his disappointment with Twitter’s decision, stating in a tweet that Elon Musk’s promises of free speech had again been broken due to a lack of transparency on the platform.
Musk responded by explaining that Twitter had to choose between either throttling the entire platform or restricting access to some tweets.
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, also weighed in on the debate, pointing out that Wikipedia had stood up for its principles and eventually won in Turkey’s Supreme Court after being banned from the country for three years. He emphasized that it was essential to treat freedom of expression as a principle, not just a slogan.
Some defenders of Elon Musk argued that comparing Wikipedia and Twitter was not a fair comparison since Wikipedia is a nonprofit organization while Twitter is a for-profit business.
However, Jimmy Wales maintained that prioritizing freedom of expression as a principle, rather than just a slogan, should be a priority for all companies, regardless of their organizational structure or profit status.
Elon Musk’s decision to comply with the Turkish government’s request to censor political opponents is notable, particularly considering his business ties to the country.
According to Forbes, Musk and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in 2017 to discuss lithium batteries for electric vehicles and later collaborated on launching satellites in 2021.
Turkey entered into an agreement with SpaceX to launch its domestically produced communications satellite, Türksat 6A, in a move to enhance its satellite communication capabilities. In 2022, Musk and Erdogan were even seen shaking hands at the World Cup.
The exact details of the agreement between Turkey and SpaceX have not been disclosed, but according to Space.com, the cost of a single Falcon 9 rocket flight is roughly $62 million.
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