Look, every time you write something even mildly critical of Elon Musk, whether it’s a valid criticism or not, whether it’s an observation based in logic or not, some of Elon’s many fans are going to make their presence known in the comments, accusing you of being anti-freedom of speech, anti-American, anti-intellectual, etc.
So here, I’m not going to say it, I’ll let Elon himself speak for himself.
So Elon’s clearly changed his apparent hardline stance on this. Because “free speech”, I guess.
And of course, Elon’s fans are going to blindly support such, as they do everything that he says or does.
But surely this raises a question about his moral stances, right? Surely this highlights that what he says and what he does are not always in line.
But if you were to stick with the “free speech absolutist” argument, then sure, Alex Jones should come back. But Elon himself does not adhere to that stance, changing his perspective on such whenever it suits him, and whenever it’ll get him and X more attention.
For example, X’s algorithm limits the reach of links to publishers that Elon doesn’t like, he shut down the account tracking his private jet, while various critics of X and/or Tesla have also had their accounts mysteriously suspended. Elon is absolutely not all about free speech as he proclaims, while his continued changes at the app largely mirror exactly what he criticized previous Twitter ownership for.
For example, last week, after discovering that his new chatbot Grok leaned further left than he would like, Elon vowed to correct it.
That chart exaggerates the situation imo, but we are taking immediate action to shift Grok closer to politically neutral
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 8, 2023
How would he do that? Grok, according to Elon, is trained on X data, so the only way to make it more or less aligned to a certain political perspective would be to manually interfere.
Which sounds like:
It has been really bad. Far left San Francisco/Berkeley views have been propagated to the world via Twitter.
I’m sure this comes as no surprise to anyone watching closely.
Twitter is moving rapidly to establish an even playing field. No more thumb on the scale!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 23, 2022
Now, it’s just Elon’s ‘thumb on the scale’ instead, but the interference that he’s referring to, theoretical or not, is exactly the same.
At the same time Elon has also acknowledged that reinstating Alex Jones’ account will be bad for the company’s ad business, its key income driver, which was already down 50% year-over-year before Elon’s recent controversial remarks prompted more big brands to scale back their X spend. Yet, rather than trying to mend bridges, or even look into their concerns, Musk has doubled- and tripled-down on his criticisms of those pausing their campaigns, taking specific aim at Disney chief Bob Iger, whom he clearly has personal issues with.
And now, he’s looking to make it worse again, and the only conclusion I can come to now is that Elon is now actively trying to kill the business, as a form of high-stakes political theater.
I was immediately reminded of a theory I read last year, that Elon never actually intended to buy Twitter in the first place, and that his real aim with his initial takeover bid was to have the Twitter board reject it, just so he could then make a show of how “woke” and owned by the “censorship industrial complex” they were. But the Twitter board did accept, which then saw Elon flail about trying to wriggle out of the deal, citing bot numbers as a key impediment (which, conveniently, he’s never referred to again).
That being the case, maybe that’s still in play, and Musk is now resigned to the fact that X is going to go down in flames, which will still show that the establishment wants to control the narrative, and X simply got too close to amplifying the truth.
That’s the only logic I can think of as to why Elon’s now deliberately trying to sink X. Because Alex Jones was a non-issue, no one was making a big deal about how he’s banned, Elon just decided to revive it, despite it adding another reason for advertisers to second guess any investment in the app.
From a marketing perspective, this does likely make X more of a risk, and I probably wouldn’t be putting big emphasis on the app in your 2024 marketing plan. Maybe, if your audience is there, and you generally see good returns with your X campaigns, then it could still be worth it, but Elon seems intent on making it a political statement in itself, which now seems far more likely to implode than take on greater significance.
Every person, every brand will have a different perspective, but it’s important, as a business, to take politics out of the equation as much as possible. Your decision on running X ads, or not, should come down to what sort of benefit it drives for your business.
The only real advisory, then, is that I’m not sure that X is going to make it through another year. And yes, there is an increasing risk of your X ads being displayed alongside offensive content, which can have negative association impacts.
Each business has to make a call on how they view such, but right now, the situation is not getting better for Elon’s X project.