Elon Musk may have bought Twitter on the pretext that he’s a free-speech crusader, but an outspoken Tesla critic has claimed Tesla’s CEO personally forced him out of Twitter in 2018.
Lawrence Fossi, then a New York-based portfolio manager by day, who led a prolific Tesla-skeptic blog and Twitter under the “Montana Skeptic” handle overnight, said Musk personally called his office and threatened to sue Fossi and his boss if he didn’t stop his public criticism at the time.
Fossi said when he arrived at work on July 23, 2018, a colleague told him that Musk had personally called the office to relay a message.
“Elon Musk says you’re a very bad person and you write bad things about him,” Fossi recalled, his colleague having told him in an interview with Mediated last week, “He’s going to have to sue you and he’s going to have to drag our boss into this.”
“It was hard to believe,” Fossi said, “but in fact, that’s what happened.”
Following the phone call that left Fossi ‘in disbelief’, he said he agreed to shut down his Twitter account and stop writing blog posts on the Seeking Alpha platform to avoid dragging down his boss in a dispute.
“We both agreed that Mr. Musk’s phone call and threat of legal action were actions that would tend to implicate our employer in matters in which he was not involved,” Fossi wrote in an article. farewell from the Montana Skeptic blog the day after the call.
“To avoid such a consequence, I offered to immediately stop writing about Seeking Alpha and deactivate my Twitter account.”
Lawrence Fossi ran the Tesla-skeptic Montana Skeptic blog on the Seeking Alpha website, and an accompanying Twitter account, until he finished both in July 2018.
Fossi claims Elon Musk personally called his employer and threatened to sue him and his employer. A 2018 statement from Tesla supports Fossi’s claim
Fossi began writing carefully analyzed articles criticizing Tesla under the pen name Montana Skeptic in 2015. He agreed to quit after Musk personally threatened to sue in 2018.
Fossi had been writing articles critical of Tesla on his blog Montana Skeptic since 2015. He also opened up about his work and his skepticism of Musk, whom he called a demagogue, in a 2018 episode of Hidden Forces with Demitri Kofinas.
Through dozens of his articles, he meticulously separated Tesla’s tax returns and claimed the company embellishes profits and conceals losses, questioned many of Tesla’s safety claims, and scrutinized billion-dollar production agreements with US states.
Fossi promoted his Montana Skeptic items through a Twitter account of the same name.
An internet detective Tesla fan had finally linked Fossi to his alias in a Posting on Twitterand within a week, Musk was ringing his boss with threats of lawsuits.
“He had never once attempted to contact me to say, ‘I think you got your article wrong, actually,'” Fossi told Mediaite.
“He didn’t email me or ask anyone at Tesla to do it.”
Tesla spokesman Dave Arnold confirmed that Tesla reached out to Fossi’s employer in a 2018 statement, saying: ‘[Fossi’s] is a longtime supporter of Tesla and was one of the first to buy a Model S. When executives at [Fossi’s place of employment] became aware of Fossi’s actions, Fossi volunteered to stop and did so.
It is not known where Fossi currently works.
Fossi discussed his work and his skepticism of Musk, whom he called a demagogue, in a 2018 episode of Hidden Forces with Demitri Kofinas
The actions against Fossi are not Musk’s first attempts to silence critics. In 2018, he called a man who accused him of using the tragedy for publicity a “pedo” and a “child rapist”.
While Musk wrote on Monday, “I hope even my worst critics stay on Twitter because that’s what free speech means,” after buying the social media platform, the incident involving Fossi isn’t the only time Musk has taken action against critical voices.
In June 2018, a month before the incident with Fossi, Business Intern published a report that a Tesla factory in Nevada had scrapped 40% of its raw materials during the production of Tesla Model 3s.
The source of the information turned out to be an assembly line worker named Martin Tripp, whom Tesla sued for $167 million. Tripp would admit to leaking trade secrets and accept a $400,000 fine.
Later in the summer of 2018, Musk had a submersible designed and sent to Thailand to help rescue a men’s soccer team that had become trapped in a cave.
Vernon Unsworth, a British diver involved in the rescue effort, publicly called Musk’s submersible a publicity stunt.
Musk responded by tweeting that Unsworth was a “pedo” and told a reporter he was a “child rapist.”
After Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion in April 2022, Musk expressed a desire for his critics to stay on the platform in the spirit of free speech.
On Tuesday, the billionaire blasted the “extreme antibody reaction” from “those who fear free speech” and said “it says it all” as he launched his first public backlash against woke workers.
He said that if people wanted to censor free speech further, they would “call on the government to pass laws to that effect.”
But he added that he would not go beyond the law because it would be “against the will of the people”.
Musk also silenced critics on Tuesday afternoon, posting, “The extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech speaks volumes.”
He continued, “By ‘freedom of speech,’ I simply mean what is within the law.
“I am against censorship which goes far beyond the law.
“If people want less free speech, they will ask the government to pass laws to that effect.
“Therefore, going beyond the law is against the will of the people.”
He later added: “Per aspera ad astra!
The Latin phrase roughly translates to: “Through difficulties to the stars!”
The Tesla founder said he wants to restore the principle of free speech to the platform and joined in criticism of its moderation policies which are accused of disproportionately targeting conservative voices, but its critics say it will allow “hate to flourish”.