X Cancels Content Deal with Don Lemon, As Musk Continues to Censor Content That He Doesn’t Like

For somebody who makes so much noise about “free speech”, Elon Musk certainly seems very keen to quash the voices of those he disagrees with.

Today, former TV personality Don Lemon has announced that X (formerly Twitter) has canceled his media deal with him and his team, in which Lemon was set to bring his talk show to X as an exclusive.

Clearly, the implication, in this note at least, is that X has made the decision based on who he is, though Lemon has also stated that Musk simply didn’t like the questions that he asked Elon in their recent sit-down interview, which, as Lemon notes, was to be the first episode of the new X show.

Some have suggested that Lemon had asked Musk about his rumored drug use, which is what angered Musk to the point of canceling the deal. And again, this is the guy who keeps telling us about the value of free speech, especially from those whom you disagree with.

Indeed, in an interview with the BBC last year, Musk reiterated that:

Free speech is meaningless unless you allow people you don’t like to say things you don’t like.” 

Evidently, Musk is less inclined to support that ethos on his own platform, though X has also noted that Lemon is free to continue publishing his content in the app:

So there’s that.

For his part, Musk says that he decided to cancel Lemon’s deal because:

“[Lemon’s] approach was basically just “CNN, but on social media”, which doesn’t work, as evidenced by the fact that CNN is dying. And, instead of it being the real Don Lemon, it was really just Jeff Zucker talking through Don, so lacked authenticity.”

I don’t know, it seems like a very contradictory move, while it’s also another blow for X’s new “video first platform” push, which was being touted by its CEO just yesterday.

That’s not exactly going awesome.

Of X’s original slate of TV-like content:

So while X is keen to talk up its video potential, on the path to making video a bigger focus, things don’t seem to be going great for the initiative at this stage.

X does still have content deals with Jim Rome and Tulsi Gabbard, while it’s also recently signed new content partnerships with the WWE and The Big 3 basketball league.

Though then again, outside of the WWE, those are still fairly niche offerings, and it’s hard to see how X will go in translating that into more mainstream success, if it can’t sign some major names to its platform.

X is keen to get more people watching more of its video content in vertical format, and on their TV screens, with X also recently revamping its TV playback feature, to enable more lean-back viewing.

But without the content to consume, it seems like an uncertain push, while it also, once again, underlines Musk’s own penchant for censorship, despite publicly and repeatedly touting the opposite.

For example:

  • In December 2022, Musk banned various journalists from The New York Times, The Washington Post and others, after accusing them of “doxxing” him. In the proceeding months, X has continued to ban or restrict journalists and/or publications that Musk has been critical of.  
  • After touting his expansive support of free speech, to the extent of even allowing an account that shares info on the movements of his private jet to remain active in the app, Musk then banned that very account just weeks later.
  • Musk made a personal decision to maintain a ban of Alex Jones’ account that was implemented by Twitter management, due to Jones’ controversial comments about the Sandy Hook mass shooting. Musk then reneged on that stance late last year.
  • Early last year, X censored a BBC documentary that was critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the request of the Indian Government. Musk says that this is an example of X aligning with local laws, but many have criticized the platform for bowing to censorship demands, especially after previous Twitter management pushed back on the same.
  • Various Tesla critics have either been banned from X, or had their posts restricted in the app.

Basically, a lot of people and/or publications that Musk has had a personal problem with have found themselves restricted by X, often without explanation. Which is contrary to Musk’s stated approach, and yet his army of supporters will still undoubtedly come to his defense, and reiterate whatever logic that Musk communicates.

Though it is humorous that those same defenders regularly respond to any criticism of Musk with “you just hate free speech”.

Yes. That’s what it is.

It’ll be interesting to see how this impacts Musk’s broader video content push, and whether it influences who signs deals with the app moving forward.

Because essentially, Musk is saying that you can say what you want on X, so long as I agree.

Seems like tenuous ground for any creator looking to build their media business in the app.

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