Elon Musk acknowledges that governments have more power. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)


Twitter boss Musk folds on free speech in India, claiming he has ‘no choice’


US billionaire and Twitter owner, Elon Musk, seems less of a free-speech advocate than he would like the world’s public to think.

Following a meeting with Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in New York on June 20, the planet’s richest man (as of June 9, according to Forbes) said his social media company has no choice but to comply with the country’s legislation.

“The best we can do is to follow the laws in any given country,” he said, adding that it is impossible for “us to do more than that”.

There are different rules and regulations for different forms of governments, he said, and: “We will do our best to provide the free-est speech that is possible under the law.” He pointed out that “not every country” has the same laws as the United States.

Musk’s remarks came after former Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, alleged that the Indian government had threatened to shut down the platform and raid employees’ houses in the country. Dorsey said India also called for the removal of tweets and accounts linked to the farmers’ protest that rocked the country in 2020. He also claimed India had demanded Twitter censor journalists critical of the country.

Dorsey’s accusations were vehemently denied by the Indian government, which accused him of lying, and insisted Twitter had to obey Indian law. India’s Minister of State for Electronics and Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, took to the social media platform in a lengthy retort where he accused Dorsey of attempting to “brush out a very dubious period of Twitter’s history”.

Chandrasekhar lamented the “partisan behaviour on Twitter under Jack’s regime”, saying the social media giant “had a problem removing misinformation from the platform in India, when they did it themselves when similar events took place in the USA”.

He denounced what he described as: “Jack’s Twitter’s arbitrary, blatantly partisan and discriminatory conduct and misuse of its power on its platform during that period.”

It is noteworthy that, alongside issues with Twitter, Modi has lobbied Musk in pushing for a “significant investment” in his country regarding electric-car maker Tesla, one of the billionaire’s other companies.

Musk has said he felt India holds significant promise for an environmentally friendly energy future, encompassing solar energy, stationary battery systems and electric vehicles. He further relayed his aspirations to introduce his rocket company SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service to India.

“He [Modi] really cares about India because he’s pushing us to make significant investments in India, which is something we intend to do,” Musk told reporters after meeting the leader.

“I am confident that Tesla will be in India and will do so as soon as humanly possible,” he said.

The Indian Twitter saga might be a hint of what’s to come in Europe, where the European Commission is threatening to torpedo the social media giant if it refuses to follow European rules.

Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for Internal Market, has already fired a broadside at Musk over the issue, warning him: “You can run, but you can’t hide.”