“Stout proponent for free speech” Elon Musk nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Elon Musk, the owner of social media platform X, has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by a Norwegian lawmaker who praised the billionaire as a “stout proponent for free speech”.

Elon Musk, the owner of social media platform X, has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by a Norwegian lawmaker who praised the billionaire as a “stout proponent for free speech”, reports the Mail.

Marius Nilsen, who is a member of the right-leaning libertarian Progress Party, said he put forward Musk’s name due to his “adamant defence of dialogue, free speech and [enabling] the possibility to express one’s views” in a “continuously more polarized world”.

Announcing his pick in local paper Agderposten, Nilsen argued that the tech visionary’s contributions to free speech and global connectivity were “enabling all parts of the world to discuss, to exchange ideas, to learn and to get to know and understand each other is a very valuable contribution to world prosperity and peace.

“Man can, and will only evolve and find together when difference of opinions are sharpened in dialogue with critical thinkers and opposing views,” he added.

The award accepts nominations from past recipients of prizes, and anyone who falls within certain criteria, including work in academia or government. A shortlist for this year’s award is drawn together in March, before judges review the nominees for announcement in October. A Nobel Prize award ceremony then follows at the end of the year, where the winner is selected by the Norwegian Nobel Committee – an anonymous group of five people appointed by the country’s parliament.

When Twitter’s board accepted Musk’s bid to buy the company for $45 billion back in April 2022, woke pundits, academics and intellectually inert but right-on celebrities instantaneously declared themselves terrified that the richest man in the world might dare to do the unthinkable and, as Mick Hume put it in the Mail, “allow those with even a slightly different opinion from their own to exercise freedom of expression online”.

Comedian Kathy Griffin Tweeted that Musk was a “media-thirsty, vindictive white supremacist”. Civil rights activist Shaun King deleted his account, fearing Musk’s “white power” and apparently fretful that “white nationalists” would be free to roam the internet, targeting and harassing people. (Shaun himself is white, needless to say – and, of course, now back on X). One preternaturally long-lived journalist – who, although never having won a Pulitzer, must surely have been a contemporary of the man himself – went so far as to warn that “today on Twitter feels like the last evening in a Berlin nightclub at the twilight of Weimar Germany”.

By contrast, those who cheered Musk’s purchase – including the FSU – pointed to the fact that the company’s previous owners had a distinctly unimpressive record when it came to free speech.

Too often in the pre-Musk era, the company conflated “harassment” with relatively innocuous forms of behaviour in order to justify the deletion of accounts on political grounds. Many gender-critical feminists – and even satirical website Babylon Bee – were censored simply for stating biological truths, or raising important questions about women-only spaces.

The same could be said for Twitter’s weaponisation of terms like ‘mis-’ and ‘disinformation’ – blocking the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story in the run-up to the 2020 election, or banning former President Donald Trump from the platform are emblematic examples of Twitter’s violations of basic tenets of free speech.

Following completion of his takeover, Elon Musk announced that he intended to grant an Amnesty to all suspended/banned Twitter accounts provided they had not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam” (Telegraph). True to his word, the company then welcomed back a number of gender critical commentators, including women’s rights activist Kellie-Jay Keen (@thePosieParker), comedy writer Graham Linehan (@glinner), journalist Meghan Murphy (@MeghanEMurphy), barrister Dennis Kavanagh (@jebadoo2), and philosopher Holly Lawford-Smith (@aytchellesse).

Musk also granted a number of high-profile independent journalists, including Bari Weiss, Michael Shellenberger and Matt Taibbi access to the company’s vast archive of internal documents and conversations that took place before his takeover, in order to document the collusion between Big Tech, ‘Right-Side-of-History’ Democrats, and the US federal government to silence those who challenged prevailing orthodoxy on issues like lockdowns, vaccine mandates, immigration, climate change and trans ideology.

What resulted was the ‘Twitter Files’.

Among the many revelations they contain is that ‘shadowbanning’ exists. Twitter executives like Jack Dorsey (under oath to Congress in 2018) and Vijaya Gadde had long denied that the company censored users, and said all they did was remove Tweets that were illegal, threatening or racially abusive. Thanks to Musk’s willingness to open up the archives, however, we now know definitively that the company deployed a vast array of “visibility filtering” devices to suppress opinions which the suits up in the C-suite – and the federal officials pulling their strings – regarded as ideologically inconvenient.

More recently, Elon Musk has warned that Ireland’s new Hate Speech Bill would put Irish people at “the mercy” of politicians and bureaucrats who would define speech they don’t like as hate speech – and pledged to fund Irish legal challenges to the legislation.

Self-styled ‘free speech absolutist’ Mr Musk is not averse to using his wealth to do practical good of this kind.

Last year, the richest person in the world (net value: US$251 billion) mooted the possibility of funding legal bills for any users of X that are “treated unfairly” by employers due to their activity on the platform, and suggested that in such cases he “will go after the boards of directors of the companies too”.

Then, in the first known example so far of X paying legal fees to support users’ free speech, the company announced that its legal team had come to the defence of an Illinois student being threatened with disciplinary action by his university over posts he made on the platform. “We will do whatever it takes to support your right to free speech,” Mr Musk posted at the time.

Alongside Musk, the nominees for this year’s award so far include British environmentalist David Attenborough, Australian activist Julian Assange, Pope Francis, UN chief António Guterres, Palestinian journalist Hind Khoudary, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, Colombian president Gustavo Petro and former US president Donald Trump.