Elon Musk’s X is a Threat to International Diplomacy and Democracy

Jordan Guiao / May 6, 2024

November 1, 2023: Elon Musk, owner of X, speaks to delegates on day one of the UK AI Summit at Bletchley Park. Picture by Marcel Grabowski / UK Government Wikimedia

It was a simple, straightforward request – take down video footage of a violent stabbing of a local bishop from Sydney, Australia. It wasn’t around news or coverage or even commentary of the stabbing – but of the act itself – a hideous, stomach-churning scene that was posted to X. The event stunned Australians, and was deemed a terrorist act.

But Elon Musk vowed to fight the injunction from the Australian Federal Court. And now he has succeeded in angering Australians and even rival political parties against him, with the Australian prime minister labelling him an “arrogant billionaire who thinks he’s above the law and above common decency.”

Most major social media companies have clear moderation guidelines that prevent violent, illegal or generally abhorrent content from being displayed on their platforms. The video in question is not in some murky grey area of misinformation, or a topic that generates divided opinions. It is, without question, a violent terrorist act which is in breach of most social media platforms’ policies, including X’s.

That Elon Musk has chosen to escalate this and make it an issue shows how problematic X has become, with its founder having a twisted idea of what ‘free speech’ entails. Musk’s acceptable form of ‘free speech’ has included pro-Nazi propaganda and conspiracy theories. NBC News reported that pro-Nazi accounts are thriving on X, with the most popular profiles generating a total of 4.5 million views over a seven day period.

When presented with analysis that X has become a haven for racism, hate speech, and disinformation since his acquisition of the platform, rather than trying to address these concerns, Musk instead chose to sue the research group which produced the analysis, a lawsuit that was dismissed.

Australia isn’t the first country to take action against social media platforms that showcase violent content. When a terrorist opened fire on two New Zealand mosques in March 2019 and live-streamed the act on Facebook, the act was widely condemned. New Zealand’s then-Prime Minister demanded action from the social platform, resulting in Facebook curbing its live streaming feature and a coordinated effort from global leaders to prevent social media being used to promote terrorist acts.

Yet today, Elon Musk’s approach with X seems to be the opposite – as he not only allows content that incites and glorifies violence on the platform, but also actively fights against democratic countries which attempt to minimize it.

Musk is also fighting against a Brazilian Supreme Court order to take down accounts which spread disinformation. He has been praised by far-right extremist groups for this action against the democratically elected Brazilian government. Content shared on X is widely seen as one of the catalysts for protestors breaking into government buildings in Brazil last year, in scenes all too similar to the US Capitol riots back in 2021.

There is also a pending EU investigation into X, looking at its content moderation practices, including dissemination of illegal content, its efforts into combating misinformation and manipulation, and questionable practices over the paid ‘blue check mark’ verification system.

The platform previously called Twitter has turned from being one known for assisting humanitarian and pro-democracy movements like the Arab Spring, and compassionate causes like the MeToo phenomenon, into one actively fighting against global democracies and amplifying hateful, extremist voices.

The stakes are quite high. With this year being the election year – many of the world’s democracies are heading for the polls – platforms like X continue to play a major role in the dissemination of news and information. We can no longer tolerate the damaging, dictatorial, and flippant acts Elon Musk continues to employ.

Let’s stop pretending X will just magically disappear or wane in influence, and that Elon Musk will respect the wishes of authorities from democratic countries, and call it for what it is – Elon Musk’s X is now a threat to global diplomacy and democracy, and he should be held to account, and punished.


Jordan Guiao
Jordan Guiao is Director of Responsible Technology at Per Capita’s Centre of the Public Square and author of Disconnect: Why we get pushed to extremes online and how to stop it.