On the opinion page of Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post, former Reddit CEO Ellen K. Pao opines:
Tesla CEO has used platform in ugly ways. Now he gets to shape the company’s policies.
By Ellen K. Pao
Ellen K. Pao is a tech investor and advocate, the former CEO of reddit, and a cofounder and CEO of the diversity and inclusion nonprofit Project Include.
Today at 11:42 a.m. EDT
It takes a lot of money to become a board member of Twitter, but not a lot else apparently. With a large stock purchase, an abuser of the service — Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and the world’s richest man
Unlike in the good old days of a short time ago when the world’s richest man was the owner of the Washington Post. Or back when the New York Times was rescued from financial ruin by an intermittent world’s richest man who’d monopolized Mexican communications and had married into the most notorious Lebanese Phalangist warlord dynasty.
— has now essentially bought himself a warm welcome from Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal. For those of us who care about equity and accountability, Musk’s appointment to such a prominent role at a platform that serves hundreds of millions of users daily is highly disconcerting — a slap in the face, even.
Musk has been open about his preference that Twitter do less to restrict speech that many see as hateful, abusive or dangerous. Given his new influence, the way he himself has used the platform bodes ill for its future. Musk paid $20 million in fines to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and stepped down as Tesla’s chairman, after tweeting what the SEC said was misleading information about a potential transaction to take the company private; the settlement also required that any Musk tweets about the company’s finance be reviewed by lawyers. (He continues to flout SEC rules, failing to notify the agency immediately last month when he passed the threshold of owning 5 percent of Twitter’s shares. The 11-day delay in that declaration may have netted him $156 million, experts say — since shares shot up after investors learned of his purchases.)
On nonfinancial subjects, Musk, who has nearly 81 million followers, often punches down in his tweets, displaying very little empathy. He called a British caver who helped to rescue trapped young Thai divers “a pedo guy” (beating a defamation suit over the slur but adding to his reputation as a bully). In February, he tweeted, then deleted, a meme comparing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Adolf Hitler.
Perhaps not coincidentally, allegations of incidents involving racism and sexism at Tesla have been common — standing out even by tech-world’s low standards.
It’s common to denounce the low standards of the tech world because its pockets are so deep. But. obviously, Silicon Valley is highly genteel by the standards of almost every industry in history. Tesla, though, unlike, say, Google or Reddit, is actually a heavy manufacturing company that employs lots of blue-collar workers who sometimes say or do crude things, upon which plaintiffs' attorneys try to pounce. Ergo:
In October, a federal jury concluded that employees’ oversensitivity wasn’t the problem: It awarded a Black former contractor $137 million in restitution for discrimination.
I don’t make many predictions, but let me predict that the plaintiff (and his lawyer) won’t walk away with $137 million when all the appeals are over.
And the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a suit in February alleging racial discrimination at the Fremont factory. There are clearly dangers to creating workplaces in which people feel free to say and do things that demean their co-workers. There are dangers to abetting such abuse on social media platforms, too.
How about lawsuits over the creation of “hostile environments” at work and at school for straight white males in which the Washington Post is a named co-defendant?
Musk calls himself a “free-speech absolutist,” but like many “free speech” advocates, he willfully ignores that private companies are free to establish some limits on their platforms. He hasn’t learned from the folks who left Facebook and subsequently raised alarms about the harms the platform can cause teenage girls and other users.
In contrast, the Washington Post and New York Times have benefited teenage girls by encouraging the transgender fad that has led thousands of teenage girls to have themselves poisoned, mutilated, and sterilized because those weren’t real teenage girls, they were boys on the inside.
… Musk’s appointment to Twitter’s board shows that we need regulation of social-media platforms to prevent rich people from controlling our channels of communication.
In contrast to Jeff Bezos’s outright personal ownership of the Washington Post or Carlos Slim’s bailout of the New York Times. You see, the Washington Post and the New York Times are good, so therefore Jeff Bezos and Carlos Slim are good. Sure, Carlos Slim is a member by marriage in Lebanon’s most notorious fascist warlord dynasty—the Gemayels—but did you read that in the New York Times or Washington Post? So, I guess that It Didn’t Happen.