Elon Musk says Starlink won’t block Russian news sources ‘unless at gunpoint’

Elonk Musk tweets he’s ‘sorry to be a free speech absolutist’

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Monday 07 March 2022 14:18 GMT
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Elon Musk has claimed SpaceX’s satellite broadband company Starlink has been asked by some governments, but not Ukraine, to block Russian news sources.

The Tesla chief executive said he would not do so “unless at gunpoint”.

“Sorry to be a free speech absolutist,” Mr Musk tweeted on Saturday.

He also said that SpaceX was reprioritised to cyber defence and overcoming signal jamming, which would cause “slight delays in Starship and Starlink V2”.

Last week, Mr Musk warned of a high chance that Starlink could be “targeted” in Ukraine, since it is the only “non-Russian communications system still working”.

“Please use with caution,” he had added.

Mr Musk’s Saturday tweet comes just days after the European Union banned Kremlin-controlled media organisations such as RT and Sputnik for spreading Russian propaganda.

While announcing the sanctions last Wednesday, the 27-country bloc said EU operators will be prohibited from broadcasting, facilitating or otherwise contributing to the dissemination of Russian state media content.

“In this time of war, words matter. We are witnessing massive propaganda and disinformation over this outrageous attack on a free and independent country. We will not let Kremlin apologists pour their toxic lies justifying Putin’s war or sow the seeds of division in our Union,” EU president Ursula von der Leyen said.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, had earlier banned RT and Sputnik from using its platforms in Europe.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has, in retaliation, blocked Facebook in Russia for “discrimination towards Russian media”.

Hours later, Roskomnadzor, the country's communications regulator, said it had also restricted Twitter.

Google last week followed Apple’s lead in removing the apps of RT and Sputnik from its mobile app store. Messaging service Telegram too blocked accounts of Sputnik and RT in the EU.

The Russian president on Friday signed legislation into law that would sentence a journalist to up to 15 years in jail for publishing “fake news” against the military.

Mr Putin’s move has forced global news organisations such as Britain's BBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Company and Bloomberg News to temporarily halt reporting in Russia.

CNN and CBS News said they would stop broadcasting in Russia, while other outlets have removed bylines from Russia-based journalists as they assessed the situation. The Washington Post said it would not add bylines and datelines to reports from Russia to protect journalists.

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