Following Musk's statement, Twitter's legal chief, Vijaya Gadde, was subjected to online harassment.

Elon Musk's criticism of a content judgement made by Twitter Inc's legal staff was met with a barrage of insults thrown at the company's chief lawyer, Vijaya Gadde.
elon musk

Elon Musk's criticism of a content judgment made by Twitter Inc's legal staff was met with a barrage of insults thrown at the company's chief lawyer, Vijaya Gadde.

Musk, who has 86.4 million Twitter followers and has agreed to buy the company for $44 billion, frequently uses the platform to criticize Twitter's decisions, particularly when they involve banning accounts from people who violate the platform's rules, some of whom Musk sees as being unfairly sidelined.

On Tuesday, he criticized the company's decision in 2020 to remove a New York Post story about Hunter Biden. He described the move as "very improper." While he did not name Gadde, the post was in response to an article in which she was mentioned prominently.

Musk was reacting to a tweet from Saagar Enjeti, the host of a political podcast, who was quoting a Politico report that Gadde burst into tears during a meeting with her employees this week.

"The main censorship champion at Twitter, Vijaya Gadde, who memorably gaslit the world on Joe Rogan's show and blocked the Hunter Biden laptop story, is very furious about the @elonmusk takeover," Enjeti tweeted.

According to the Post account cited by Enjeti, Biden, son of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, had questionable contacts with an executive at a Ukrainian energy corporation. Twitter later altered its decision, but only after being accused of blocking information that could have harmed a Democratic contender.

Musk's remark was met with a flood of criticism from Twitter users. Some people used expletives or racist slurs to refer to Gadde's Indian origin, such as the phrase "curry" and references to India's caste system. Others used expletives or harsh language, accusing her of "destroying countless @Twitter accounts for expressing the truth." Some urged for her to be fired, while others advised her to go on her own. Some of the abusive tweets were eventually removed when they were found to be in violation of Twitter policies.

Musk followed up with another tweet on Wednesday, this time with a meme criticizing Twitter's "left-wing bias." It featured Gadde's face and received a reprimand from former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, who questioned Musk's decision to "make an executive at the company you just bought the focus of harassment and threats."

Musk has frequently stated that his goal is to create the social media platform as a haven for free speech. "By 'free speech,' I simply mean that which conforms to the law," he wrote in a tweet on Tuesday. "I am opposed to censorship that goes beyond the law." In other situations, his comments prompt his sizable fan base to publicly mock those he has attacked, ranging from a local health official early in the pandemic to current Twitter users.

Some racist comments made in response to his Tuesday post also made a connection to Agrawal, who is also of Indian descent. Musk has also mocked Agrawal, uploading a joke last year that morphed his face into that of Russian tyrant Joseph Stalin. The doctored photograph showed Agrawal, formerly Twitter's chief technology officer, purging co-founder, and former CEO Jack Dorsey in the same way that Stalin did to Soviet secret police chief Nikolai Yezhov.

Some users publicly encouraged Dorsey to accept responsibility for judgments made during his tenure, considering that Gadde reported to him, or at the very least defend her work. But he remained mute, even while other employees, including former CEO Ev Williams, defended her.

According to the document, "the equity investor shall be entitled to publish tweets about the merger or the transactions contemplated hereby so long as such tweets do not denigrate the company or any of its representatives." It's unclear if his mention of Gadde would breach those restrictions, or what would happen if it did.

According to John C Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School, it is doubtful that Twitter will jeopardize the partnership by calling out Musk for the posts.

"Even if Musk did break the anti-discrimination clause, the last thing Twitter would do is cancel a deal that is likely overvalued," he said.

And it's unclear what Twitter would gain from such a move, according to Coffee. "If you say he violated the anti-discrimination clause, there is no natural consequence that corresponds to it."

Musk has promised to make Twitter into a platform for free speech with few constraints, a move he calls "vital to a functioning democracy."

Musk outlined Twitter's purpose earlier this month at a TED event, stating, "A decent indicator of whether there is free speech is: Is someone you don't like permitted to say something you don't like?" If that is the case, then we have freedom of expression."

Those who have said things that Musk does not like have had their reputations publicly blasted. In 2018, Vernon Unsworth, a British caver who assisted in the rescue of 12 boys imprisoned in Thailand, labelled Musk's efforts to help a "public relations gimmick." Musk replied by referring to him as a "pedo person."