Elon Musk claims that he has resisted demands from several countries to block Russian news sites from his Starlink internet satellites amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
“Starlink has been told by some governments (not Ukraine) to block Russian news sources,” the world’s richest man tweeted over the weekend.
“We will not do so unless at gunpoint.”
Musk added: “Sorry to be a free speech absolutist.”
Since the Russians launched their invasion of Ukraine some 10 days ago, several media outlets affiliated with the Kremlin have been deplatformed by major tech companies in the United States.
Reddit last week banned users from posting links to RT and Sputnik, joining other tech giants that also imposed similar restrictions such as Microsoft, Twitter, YouTube, Meta, Snapchat, TikTok and Spotify.
Even Telegram, the encrypted messenger service, bowed to European pressure to remove RT, where it had a large following. It is believed that Russian disinformation was allowed to spread freely on Telegram.
Russian authorities have retaliated against American tech companies by instituting their own bans.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning Facebook and Twitter for failing to toe the Kremlin’s line on the Ukraine war.
The Russian government has also moved to block locals’ access to foreign media outlets reporting from the country, including US government-funded Voice of America, the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and the Latvian site Meduza.
Russian censorship authorities have also forced the few remaining independent domestic outlets to shut down their operations.
Starlink is the system of satellites aimed at providing wireless internet access via space. Musk’s firm, SpaceX, sent a shipment of Starlink terminals to provide Ukraine with internet access due to concerns the country would lose reliable access during invasion.
But as Russia steps up its bombardment of major cities, Musk and others have cautioned that the satellite signals could turn Ukrainians into targets.
“Important warning: Starlink is the only non-Russian communications system still working in some parts of Ukraine, so probability of being targeted is high,” Musk tweeted.
“Please use with caution.”
Musk urged Ukrainians to take certain precautions when using Starlink.
“Turn on Starlink only when needed and place antenna away as far away from people as possible,” Musk added. “Place light camouflage over antenna to avoid visual detection.”
Musk’s delivery of Starlink terminals came at the request of Ukraine Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov, who has said the broadband internet service “keeps our cities connected and emergency services saving lives” in the event of outages.
The Starlink terminals were activated last Saturday upon their arrival in Ukraine.