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Elon Musk Jumps Into Geopolitics Ahead of Planned Twitter Takeover


Elon Musk

has said on


TWTR 0.22%

that he prefers to stay out of politics. But at the same time that the billionaire is waging his on-again, off-again effort to buy the social media platform, he has been wading into sensitive political issues in the U.S. and beyond.

In recent weeks he has weighed in on Russia’s war against Ukraine and China’s standoff with Taiwan.

That followed a year in which the

Tesla Inc.

TSLA -7.55%

chief executive fired off tweets on the domestic sphere that, among other things, took swipes at both the current and previous U.S. presidents and said he was leaning toward supporting Florida’s Republican governor,

Ron DeSantis,

as a potential candidate for the 2024 White House race.

Mr. Musk’s $44 billion proposal to buy Twitter Inc.—which he reanimated this month after trying for months to terminate the deal—could draw him further into politics if it is completed. Twitter’s role as a popular venue for politicians, entertainers, journalists and provocateurs to hold forth has put it at the center of arguments about controversial speech and debates over whether and how technology companies should regulate their platforms.

A representative for Twitter declined to comment. Mr. Musk didn’t respond to a request for comment and a representative of his legal team declined to comment.

Twitter will become a private company if Elon Musk’s $44 billion takeover bid is approved. The move would allow Musk to make changes to the site. WSJ’s Dan Gallagher explains Musk’s proposed changes and the challenges he might face enacting them. Illustration: Jordan Kranse

A self-described free-speech absolutist, Mr. Musk has referred to Twitter as “the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” and said he wants to limit content moderation on the platform. In a June meeting with Twitter employees, he said people should be allowed to say pretty outrageous things on Twitter as long as they stay within the law, but didn’t necessarily deserve to have their tweets amplified across Twitter, according to attendees.

Some people have said they would welcome such a change. Others who have done and studied content moderation say striking such a balance will be difficult, noting that platforms have struggled with such decisions for years. Twitter once described itself as the “free-speech wing of the free-speech party” but in recent years has taken more aggressive action to curb content it deems abusive. It banned former President

Donald Trump

after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Mr. Musk in a May tweet alleged Twitter has a “strong left wing bias.” That month, he accused Democrats of shifting from a party focused on kindness to one of “division & hate.”

Mr. Musk also has said he would allow Mr. Trump back on Twitter. Mr. Trump has decried Twitter’s ban as an attempt to silence him, but said he doesn’t intend to return to Twitter even if Mr. Musk allows it.

Like many business leaders, Mr. Musk has long had some level of political involvement. He has donated over the years to Democrats and Republicans, though not as much as some other billionaires, according to federal data. His two most prominent companies, Tesla and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, have lobbied lawmakers for years on issues related to their businesses.

In 2017, Mr. Musk drew disapproval from Trump critics after he attended a meeting of the president’s economic advisory council at a time when the White House pushed a controversial travel ban. Mr. Musk responded that his participation didn’t mean he agreed with the administration’s actions, but he later left the council after Mr. Trump said the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate accord. “Climate change is real,” Mr. Musk tweeted at the time.

In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. Musk assailed local restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of the virus. The measures caused the temporary suspension of production at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., factory. “Give people back their goddamn freedom,” Mr. Musk said then.

Even amid those episodes, Mr. Musk said that he wanted to avoid politics. During the tempest over his involvement with the Trump administration, Mr. Musk tweeted, “Really don’t want to get in politics. I just want to help invent and develop technologies that improve lives.” Last year, amid furor about a Texas abortion law as he increased his presence in the state, he tweeted, “I would prefer to stay out of politics.”

He hasn’t done so. In recent months, Mr. Musk has spoken more about his political leanings and views, often on Twitter. He tweeted in May that he had voted for Mr. Biden, but intended to vote Republican this November. He blamed what he called “unprovoked attacks by leading Democrats against me & a very cold shoulder to Tesla & SpaceX.” He has maintained he is a moderate, tweeting in August, “To be clear, I support the left half of the Republican Party and the right half of the Democratic Party!”

After he recently suggested in one interview that China take a limited amount of control over Taiwan, a self-ruled island with a democratic system, Taiwanese politicians emphasized their commitment to their democracy.

Mr. Musk also suggested Crimea, a region Russia annexed from Ukraine, rightfully belonged to Moscow. “F— off is my very diplomatic reply to you,” Ukrainian diplomat Andrij Melnyk responded on Twitter. Ukrainian President

Volodymyr Zelensky

also pushed back on Twitter.

That was roughly two weeks ago, and Mr. Musk has since continued to spar online over issues related to Russia’s war with Ukraine. On Friday, Mr. Musk said on Twitter that SpaceX couldn’t indefinitely continue funding the Starlink system that has played a critical role in maintaining Ukraine’s communications during the conflict. He said the cost of maintaining the system in Ukraine was approaching $20 million a month.

“We’re just following his recommendation,” Mr. Musk said on Twitter, referring to the diplomat’s previous tweet.

Mr. Musk continued on Saturday, tweeting: “The hell with it…even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free.”

Last year, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said on Twitter that Mr. Musk should pay more taxes, Mr. Musk responded with a string of tweets, saying that he would pay more taxes than any American in history that year. “Don’t spend it all at once…oh wait you did already,” he wrote.

Mr. Musk has bristled at some moves by the Biden administration, including support for rival car makers. Last year, Mr. Musk tweeted it “seems odd that Tesla wasn’t invited” to a White House event on electric vehicles that included executives from

Ford Motor Co.


General Motors Co.



NV—all of which have union workers.

Mr. Musk later tweeted that Mr. Biden was a sock puppet of the United Auto Workers union.

More recently, Mr. Musk said Mr. Biden deserved some credit. When the president said he would pardon all prior federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana and would call on federal regulators to review how the drug is classified, Mr. Musk tweeted a thumbs-up.

Write to Alexa Corse at [email protected]

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