TikTok Finds a New Defender: Elon Musk

TikTok Finds a New Defender: Elon Musk

Elon Musk spoke out against the United States’ potential ban on TikTok, owned by China-based ByteDance, in a tweet on Tuesday, saying the law is all about “censorship and government control.” Musk has previously expressed discomfort with TikTok’s algorithm addictive, but this stance fits with his “free speech absolutism”—at least, when that’s what he wants you to think.

“This law is not just about TikTok, it is about censorship and government control,” said Musk in a tweet. The post quoted Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie, who claimed the “so-called TikTok ban is a trojan horse,” suggesting that the law would be used to suppress American’s freedom of speech.

However, Musk and the Kentucky Congressman are confused about the bill, according to Federal Communications Commission member, Brendan Carr. Replying to Musk’s tweet, he says the proposed law only applies to apps based in China, North Korea, Iran, or Russia which demonstrate a significant threat to national security.

This appears to be a change in tone from Musk. Just months ago, he was critical of TikTok, saying the app is full of antisemitic content, and noting how it’s addicting teenagers. However, he rejected the idea that TikTok is controlled by the Chinese government.

“I stopped using TikTok when I felt the AI probing my mind. It made me uncomfortable,” said Musk. “In terms of antisemitic content, TikTok is rife with it.”

While this may be a new stance on TikTok for Musk, he’s selling a familiar line: Big Tech, the media, and the government are censoring conservative voices. However, Musk advocates for free speech selectively and typically gives more grace to conservative voices. He has a history of suspending journalists on X, especially ones who are critical of him.

Musk previously said Trump was “correct” in his assertion that TikTok’s demise would benefit Meta and “Zuckerschuck,” and that Facebook was a “true enemy of the people.” Despite Trump’s claims, he was the major beneficiary in 2016 when his campaign hired Cambridge Analytica to target voters with Facebook’s data. And Musk has had a running war of words going with Zuckerberg for about a year that has yet to materialize in a long-promised cage match.

Trump also had a reversal on TikTok, now supporting it after years of trying to ban the Chinese social media platform. Politico reports that Trump has recently been especially friendly with Jeff Yass, a Republican megadonor with $US33 billion invested in ByteDance. It’s also possible he just wants to oppose whatever President Biden does, as the White House signaled it would sign the TikTok bill if Congress passes it.

Though the bill is bipartisan, the Republican party is now divided on the issue, according to Axios, due to the sudden reversal of Donald Trump and other conservative voices. The U.S. House of Representatives is slated to vote on the TikTok bill on Wednesday morning.

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