Elon Musk's Twitter bans advert criticising self-driving Tesla cars for being 'political'

Dan Kiely, CEO of Voxpro, holds the wheel of his Tesla Model S car at a launch event for the MobilityX self-driving conference, a gathering of global autonomous vehicle leaders, in Dublin.
Safety campaigners have expressed doubts over Tesla's claims of 'full self-driving' capabilities. (PA)

Elon Musk's commitment to free speech has been thrown into question after Twitter banned an advert by a safety advocacy group criticising the safety of Tesla self-driving cars.

The Dawn Project recently published a full-page advert in the New York Times highlighting what it claims to be life-threatening danger to child pedestrians posed by Tesla's self-driving feature.

It reports that tests carried out by the safety campaigners reveal the car manufacturer's software would repeatedly run down child-sized mannequins in its path, as shown in this video demonstration.

In August, around a month before Musk's $44 billion takeover of Twitter, his other company Tesla demanded the Dawn Project remove its videos.

The firm sent a cease-and-desist letter and describing the clips as defamatory and misrepresentative of Tesla vehicles' capabilities.

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BOCA CHICA BEACH, TX - AUGUST 25: SpaceX founder Elon Musk during a T-Mobile and SpaceX joint event on August 25, 2022 in Boca Chica Beach, Texas. The two companies announced plans to work together to provide T-Mobile cellular service using Starlink satellites. (Photo by Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images)
Tesla and Twitter CEO Elon Musk's commitment to free speech has been questioned. (Getty Images)
Dawn Project full page Tesla advert in New York Times
The Dawn Project recently took out a full page advert in New York Times. (Twitter/@RealDanODowd)

That didn't stop the group from paying for its full-page advert in the NYT this month, but the project's founder Dan O'Dowd has subsequently been banned from promoting it on Twitter via an ad campaign.

In an email received by The Dawn Project on Monday, Twitter said it would not allow the promotion on its platform as it fell foul of its policy regarding “political” advertising.

Musk, who has recently reaffirmed his commitment to free speech, completed his long-awaited purchase of Twitter late last month and has further announced reforms to the social media giant's moderation policies.

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He has told of his vision to create a "digital town square", having previously claimed Twitter had a problem with censorship and a left-wing bias.

"The move to prohibit the advertising of content criticising Musk's Tesla Full Self-Driving software raises serious questions over his commitment to free speech", O'Dowd said.

He added: "Claiming our safety tests, which raise awareness of a vital public safety issue, constitute political advertising is a serious incursion on free speech.

The Dawn Project's founder Dan O'Dowd told he can't run Tesla ad on Twitter
The Dawn Project's founder Dan O'Dowd was told he can't run an ad campaign on Tesla safety as it is too 'political'. (Twitter)

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"The public must be made aware of the potentially lethal threat Tesla Full Self-Driving poses to child pedestrians, as our safety tests reveal. Perhaps all criticism of Elon will now be banned by Twitter!"

On its website, the Dawn Project, says its mission is to make "computers safe for humanity", while demanding that software "never fails and can't be hacked".

It says O’Dowd created secure operating systems for projects including Boeing’s 787s, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Fighter Jets, the Boeing B1-B Intercontinental Nuclear Bomber, and NASA’s Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle.

Tesla is currently facing a criminal probe by the US Department of Justice over claims of "full self-driving capabilities".

The investigation, which could ultimately trigger criminal charges against Tesla executives, is centred on whether that claim constitutes defrauding consumers.

Yahoo News UK has approached Twitter for comment.