‘Sorry to be a free speech absolutist’: Elon Musk will only block Russian news sites if ‘at gunpoint’

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Billionaire visionist Elon Musk is defending free speech and defiantly resisting demands from a number of countries that want him to block Russian news sites from his Starlink Internet satellites as the war in Ukraine explodes, claiming he would only do so at gunpoint.

“Starlink has been told by some governments (not Ukraine) to block Russian news sources,” Musk tweeted. “We will not do so unless at gunpoint.”

“Sorry to be a free speech absolutist,” he bluntly remarked.

A number of major tech companies in the United States have de-platformed media outlets affiliated with Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. Musk’s outfit will not be one of them even though he stands with Ukraine and has provided the country with access to his Starlink Internet satellites.

Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik were both banned on Reddit, which joined other tech giants in censorship as they condemned Russia’s aggression. Others such as Microsoft, Twitter, YouTube, Meta, Snapchat, TikTok, and Spotify have followed suit, according to the New York Post. DirecTV is also pulling the plug on RT.

Telegram, which has made a name for itself concerning freedom of speech, also bowed to European pressure and banned RT. The media outlet had a large following on the service.

Russia Today has also laid off all of its staff, effectively shutting down operations in the United States after being slammed over the war in Ukraine.

“Unfortunately, we anticipate this layoff will be permanent, meaning that this will result in the permanent separation from employment of most T&R employees at all locations,” General Manager Misha Solodovnikov announced in a statement, according to the Daily Mail. “We deeply regret and understand the uncertainty this action will cause our valued employees.”

In a tit-for-tat move, Russia is retaliating by banning American big tech companies. Russian President Vladimir Putin formally instituted a law banning both Facebook and Twitter over their stance on the war.

Russian citizens are also reportedly being blocked from access to foreign media outlets. Voice of America, which is funded by the US government, has been banned, so has Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, and the Latvian site Meduza. Independent domestic media outlets have also been shuttered in Russia.

Starlink provides a system of satellites that provide wireless internet access via low-orbital space. SpaceX shipped Starlink terminals to Ukraine to ensure the country had internet access during the invasion.

There is also a chance that internet access could target Ukrainians and Musk has warned about that possibility.

“Important warning: Starlink is the only non-Russian communications system still working in some parts of Ukraine, so probability of being targeted is high,” Musk tweeted. “Please use with caution.”

“Turn on Starlink only when needed and place antenna away as far away from people as possible,” Musk added urging precautions. “Place light camouflage over antenna to avoid visual detection.”

He also announced that SpaceX would “reprioritize” signal jamming and up cyber defense. Musk told Ukrainians to “hold strong” and gave his “sympathies to the great people of Russia, who do not want this.”

Ukraine Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov requested Starlink terminals from Musk, who happily supplied them. Fedorov stated that the internet service “keeps our cities connected and emergency services saving lives” in the event of outages. The terminals went live last Saturday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has invited Musk to visit Ukraine after the war ends and they have spoken about technology that can be employed in the country.

(Video Credit: The Daily Mail)


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