On Wednesday, SpaceX workers wrote an open letter to the company’s president, asking for action to be taken regarding Elon Musk’s Twitter account. The letter, shared internally but shown to The Verge, called Musk’s tweets “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment” and said that “Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX — every Tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company.” By the end of the next day, some of the organizers behind the letter had been fired.
The New York Times got its hands on an email from Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX, in which she confirmed that the company had “terminated a number of employees involved” with either writing or rousing support for the letter. Shotwell’s email also called the letter “overreaching activism,” and said that it “did not reflect” the opinions of the workers who had signed.
Sources who spoke with The Verge, however, beg to differ. Two sources inside SpaceX shared screenshots showing multiple comments in support of the letter after it was shared in the company’s Microsoft Teams channels, though no one seems to have an exact count of how many SpaceX workers actually signed the document.
While SpaceX workers were being fired for criticizing the “free speech absolutist,” Musk himself was on a video call with Twitter’s workers as both parties navigate his long-promised buyout of the social media company. On that call, he reiterated his stance that any restrictions on free speech beyond those prescribed by law were tantamount to “censorship,” something Musk claims to loathe.
Musk may want his “worst critics” to remain on Twitter, but apparently his appetite for valid criticism doesn’t extend to his own employees. Free speech for all, so long as it never makes Elon look bad.