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Elon Musk May Have a Way to Challenge Alphabet's Flagship

Tesla's CEO, a big user of social media, is frustrated with Google's YouTube platform and its content-moderation policy.
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Elon Musk, a big user of social media, is one of the harshest critics of Silicon Valley giants. 

The Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Free Report CEO's main targets are often Facebook parent Meta's  (META) - Get Free Report Mark Zuckerberg, whom he has dubbed "Zuck the Fourteenth" -- an apparent nod to the French king famous for his hubris and excess, Louis XIV -- the microblogging platform Twitter  (TWTR) - Get Free Report and Alphabet's  (GOOGL) - Get Free Report YouTube video space. 

For the tech tycoon, who defines himself as an ardent defender of free speech, these platforms go too far when they remove content they deem misinformation, fake news, hateful or racist. 

Musk says all opinions should be aired as long as they do not violate the laws of the country in which they are held. 

Beyond this fight for free speech, he also leads specific battles against each of these social networks. He abruptly withdrew his $44 billion acquisition offer from Twitter because he said the firm lied about the number of spam bots, or fake accounts, on the platform. 

Twitter has filed a court complaint against him, seeking to force him to close the deal. A five-day trial is scheduled for October 17. 

It's Personal

His fight against YouTube is less publicized but it's also personal.

For several months the billionaire has been accusing the Alphabet division of having left scams on its platform using his person and the image of his companies. He sees a double-standard, saying YouTube is failing in its commitment to eliminate all disinformation. 

Musk and his space-technology company SpaceX were used for false ads -- fake SpaceX digital coin -- on YouTube when the billionaire was to host the iconic "Saturday Night Live" TV show in 2021.

"In early May [2021], scammers compromised Twitter and YouTube accounts to promote a series of cryptocurrency scams ahead of Tesla and SpaceX Founder Elon Musk’s appearance on Saturday Night Live, stealing over [$10 million] in bitcoin, ethereum and doge tokens. The scams conducted via YouTube were the most successful, resulting in a theft of over $9 million," a report from risk-management firm Tenable found.

In June, Musk said on Twitter that scammers were using Tesla and in particular its solar-panel business to defraud people.

"Other companies are using the Tesla name for solar and Powerwall. Will put a stop to that."

Could Rumble Be the Answer?

The richest man in the world might have a way to attack YouTube head-on. This would be the video-sharing platform Rumble, which is rising in popularity. Musk isn't ruling out chatting with the Rumble CEO soon, he recently tweeted. 

It all started with a video posted by the actor Russell Brand, accusing YouTube of censorship.

"We have been officially censored by YouTube," Brand said in the video, which at last check had drawn more than 3 million views on Twitter. "They took down one of our videos for misinformation. But why are big media organizations not censored for misinformation in the same way?" 

The more than two-minute video was posted on Sept. 27.

"Is it because YouTube are part of the mainstream media now? Earlier this month, we did a video about the changing narratives around covid, the pandemic and covid treatments in which we cited information on official government websites, which we misinterpreted," Brand continued. 

"I'll have to be careful talking about it now. So I don't want to make the same mistake that had one of our videos pulled down on an official warning issue. The good news is we're moving to Rumble. All of our content is up on rumble first, and we'll be streaming on rumble every day. We have been persecuted for misinformation."

"Good point," Musk commented.

That's when Dan Bongino, the prominent right-wing commentator who published a book about the "deep state” conspiracy theory and frequently publishes unverified information, chimed in. He suggested that the serial entrepreneur join forces with the video-sharing platform Rumble.

"Elon, It would be really incredible if you and Rumble got together. A force multiplier like no other," Bongino said.

Musk did not rule out the idea. He explained that he was currently "preoccupied" but could discuss with the platform "at some point."

"I’m a little preoccupied rn [right now]," the tycoon said.

Musk + Rumble vs. YouTube?

Rumble's founder then took the opportunity to sell the cooperation idea to Musk.

"Elon, I founded Rumble and forever wanted to work with you. Below is from 2010 when I visited SpaceX. I was ready 12 years ago, and I'm ready 12 years from now. Whenever you're ready 🚀," Chris Pavlovski wrote.

"Maybe worth talking at some point," Musk responded, without providing a timetable.

This comes at a time when Musk has said he will vote for Republicans in the midterm elections.

Rumble was launched in 2013 by tech entrepreneur Pavlovski as an alternative to YouTube. It's particularly popular among American conservatives seeking an alternative to Big Tech. 

Its most popular videos are those of conservative commentators including Bongino and Dinesh DSouza, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, QAnon members, as well as the former Trump White House strategist Steve Bannon. Rumble is backed by venture capitalist billionaire Peter Thiel, among others. 

Two weeks ago the company RUM completed a special purpose acquisition company deal with CF Acquisition Corp VI and went public.

"This Russell Brand show is rocking on Rumble! This is the future of television and internet livestreaming!" Pavlovski posted on Twitter on Sept. 28.