Elon Musk’s Tesla recently asked China to use its censorship powers to shut down criticism of its products on social media, according to a report in Bloomberg Businessweek.
At the Shanghai Auto Show in April, a woman who claimed that a brake failure in her Model 3 had caused a crash, nearly killing four of her family members, staged a solitary protest at the Tesla booth. After climbing on top of a vehicle wearing a T-shirt that read “brake lost control” in Chinese, she was quickly hauled away by guards.
Tesla apologized for the error following the wide criticism the company’s response received on social media and from state-run news sources.
Per Bloomberg Businessweek, Tesla “complained to the government over what it sees as unwarranted attacks on social media, and asked Beijing to use its censorship powers to block some of the posts.”
U.S. legislators have previously expressed concern over the potential spillover effects for national security that can come from the close relationship that Musk — who is a major Pentagon contractor as the CEO of SpaceX— has with the communist regime.
Musk praised the country’s “economic prosperity” on the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, has strong ties to the country’s key leadership officials, and even received substantial financial assistance from the country for his business operations.
Per the Washington Examiner, Congress has even considered legislative solutions to Musk’s business ties to China:
“What is there to stop them from going to Musk directly and saying, ‘We’ll call your line of credit early, unless you give us X, Y, or Z?’” said a congressional Republican aide involved in negotiations over the comprehensive legislation governing the space agency. “And, there’s no real clarity that there’s any kind of mechanism that would stop that other than good behavior by an individual.”
It remains to be seen whether Musk’s alleged censorship ask of the communist regime will add further fuel to Congress’ concern.
Musk’s censorship request comes just months after he appeared to criticize Twitter for its penchant for silencing dissenting viewpoints:
This is an important distinction
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 12, 2021
Last year, Musk also criticized Jeff Bezos — who runs Blue Origin, which competes with SpaceX — for Amazon’s coronavirus censorship. He called the move “insane” and said it’s time to break the company up because “monopolies are wrong!”