Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and Jack White are among those who have slammed Elon Musk for his handling of Twitter, since the entrepreneur took over the company late last month in a $44 billion deal. In recent weeks, Musk has fired multiple top executives, laid off thousands of employees and gave staff the ultimatum of expecting “long, intense hours of work” if they decided to stay, leading to a swarm of resignations.
Musk has also been criticised for his vague pledge to promote “free speech” on Twitter, as hate speech reportedly increased on the platform following his acquisition and concerns for the potential spread of misinformation grew. Recently, after holding a poll, he reinstated the account of former US President Donald Trump, who was banned from Twitter in early 2021 shortly after the January 6 Capitol riots due to the likelihood of his tweets causing “further incitement of violence.”
“Elon Musk: Trump will be reinstated.”
The people have spoken.
Trump will be reinstated.
Vox Populi, Vox Dei. https://t.co/jmkhFuyfkv
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 20, 2022
Musk’s reinstatement of Trump was the final straw for White, who took to Instagram to vent his frustration and announce he was deactivating his Third Man Records Twitter account. “So you gave trump his twitter platform back. Absolutely disgusting, Elon. That is officially an asshole move,” White wrote.
“Why [don’t] you be truthful? Tell it like it is; people like you and Joe Rogan (who gives platforms to liars like alex jones etc.); you come into a ton of money, see the tax bill, despise paying your fair share, and then think moving to Texas and supporting whatever republican you can is going to help you keep more of your money,” the musician continued. “This is straight up you trying to help a fascist have a platform so you can eventually get your tax breaks,” he later added.
White said Musk has done “amazing things” with Tesla, but was now using his power “to promote horrible, violence inducing liars, who are taking the country and the world backwards and endangering the democracy that made you rich and successful in the first place.”
White added that while he was a believer in free speech, private entities have a responsibility not to platform hateful or dangerous ideologies, saying he wouldn’t “let the KKK hold a rally at our record label’s performance stage” as an example. “You took on a big responsibility with your purchase, and ‘free speech’ isn’t some umbrella that protects you from that.”
In a comment on the post, White said that while he’d never had a personal Twitter account (“it’s mostly a sea of negativity if you ask me”) he would be deactivating the Third Man Records account.
“Its a shame that our label’s artists will lose a social media outlet to promote their art, and I apologize to our artists for having to do this, but we are not going to even tangentially support you or this platform that will help conspiracy spreading liars and out of touch narci-capitalists tear this country apart, all for trump’s ego and your tax break agenda.”
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Reznor, meanwhile, described Musk’s takeover of Twitter as an “embarrassment” and said he was “about to depart” the platform during a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“We don’t need the arrogance of the billionaire class to feel like they can just come in and solve everything,” the Nine Inch Nails bandleader said. “Even without him involved, I just find that it has become such a toxic environment. For my mental health, I need to tune out. I don’t feel good being there anymore.”
White and Reznor’s exit from Twitter comes as one of its more controversial users – Kanye West – returns. Prior to Musk’s acquisition, West was suspended from the platform after making antisemitic tweets on the platform. In a tweet posted earlier this morning, the rapper said he was “testing” to see if his account was “unblocked.” In a later tweet, he wrote the Hebrew word “Shalom.”
Musk responded to the first tweet, writing, “Don’t kill what ye hate. Save what ye love.”
Don’t kill what ye hate
Save what ye love
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 20, 2022
The new round of departures and returns comes as Twitter’s overall sustainability under Musk continues to be questioned, particularly given widespread layoffs and resignations this month, with some users jumping ship to alternative platforms such as Mastodon.