Big Corporations are not eXempt


This summer, the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, made headlines because of Elon Musk’s string of controversial decisions. 

Big tech billionaire Musk’s billion dollar social media company violated the law, and San Francisco should take action. 

Prior to buying and renaming Twitter as X, Elon Musk was known as the founder of SpaceX and the CEO of the car manufacturing company, Tesla. Mark Fergus, who wrote the superhero film “Iron Man,” said the titular character, a high-tech inventor described as both a genius and a philanthropist, drew inspiration from the infamous tech executive, likely because both were prominent in the tech industry. In the past few years, Musk has grifted on the right-wing “free speech” panic in an attempt to garner conservative support. 

On Apr. 14 of last year, Musk publicly announced on Twitter that he had offered to buy out the company for $54.20 per share, valuing the company at $43 billion. He said the social media company needed to be “transformed privately,” as the platform doesn’t protect the principle of free speech

Musk officially acquired Twitter on Oct. 27 of last year after publicly deliberating about purchasing for months. The next day, he posted on the platform, “the bird is freed,” announcing his successful acquisition. In an interview with PR Newswire, he said, “free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.” Despite his goal to uphold the principles of the First Amendment, many of his changes have nothing to do with free speech.

In addition to completely rebranding Twitter as “X,” some notable changes Musk has made so far include revamping the fact-checking feature to a user-generated “Community Notes” and selling a blue tick verification for $8 a month, which, prior to Musk’s ownership, was used as a tool for verifying user identity. He has also added more statistical features, like publishing the amount of views and bookmarks every post has. 

On May 11, he announced that Linda Yaccarino would replace him as CEO, opting to focus on being the executive chair and chief technical officer. Although he is no longer CEO, he still has influence on most of the decisions made. 

During his controversial leadership, Musk defied San Francisco law by installing a glowing “X” sign atop San Francisco Headquarters without submitting a necessary permit. Despite X’s lack of a permit, the sign’s installation was completed. According to the Washington Post, the city intervened after receiving dozens of complaints about the sign’s bright flashing illumination continuing into the night.

According to the San Francisco Standard, the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) Notice of Violation states, “The symbol is dangling and could fall [into] the public [right of] way causing harm to pedestrians.”

“A building permit is required to make sure the sign is structurally sound and installed safely.” Patrick Hannan, spokesperson for the DBI, said. “Planning review and approval is also necessary for the installation of this sign. The city is opening a complaint and initiating an investigation.”

That’s not the only problem Musk has created. Since his acquisition of X, the company hasn’t paid rent. According to the New York Times, he refused to pay rent for X’s office spaces across the world. According to Reuters, six former Twitter employees filed a lawsuit against Musk, who allegedly stated in a call with a Twitter investor that he would pay rent “over his dead body.” Consequently, landlords in London, New York City, and San Francisco threatened legal action towards X because of unpaid rent. 

Despite these decisions, it’s important to acknowledge the purpose X has. X serves as a public space where people can exchange different ideas — while there are toxic corners of the platform, its popularity and revenue benefit the economy. According to the Business of Apps, X generated $4.4 billion in revenue in 2022 alone. However, Musk said that the revenue will dwindle down to $3 billion this year, something he attributed to “activist groups pressuring advertisers.” The trend of declining revenue started after Musk’s takeover of the company.

San Francisco should crack down on big corporations like X violating the law, and they should be transparent when it comes to addressing situations like this. In the last decade, the city has advocated for tech companies to migrate to San Francisco. In 2011, former mayor Ed Lee instilled a temporary tax break to allow tech companies to migrate to the city, which companies like X took advantage of. This created more tech jobs in the city — a strong economic move, as critics would say it would be a huge loss to the local economy if a major tech corporation left.

Despite the corporation’s economical and societal significance, X should not have special privileges to put others in danger. Big corporations and capitalists are not above the law. Their notoriety, revenue, and economic successes are irrelevant. If the average person can’t pay rent and their landlord evicts them, then it’s only fair that companies like X are treated the same. 


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