Yesterday, 97 companies, largely tech industry leaders such as Apple, Google and Intel, filed an amicus brief in the federal court case led by Minnesota and Washington states against the recent executive order banning certain refugees and immigrants from entry into the United States. Tesla was a notable absence from the list of companies, but today news came that another ~30 companies are joining the amicus brief, including both of Elon Musk’s companies Tesla and SpaceX.
Tesla’s absence from the original list was notable due to Elon Musk’s position on the Presidential Advisory Forum and his recent comments on twitter regarding the immigration order, the Advisory Forum, and the US justice system.
Tesla is obviously a big name in Silicon Valley which would suggest that it belongs on the list of companies joining the amicus brief alongside the likes of Airbnb, Yelp, and Netflix. But Tesla has previously been reluctant to step into politically-charged national fights like this one. However, given Tesla’s high profile and that Musk has now placed himself in a position close to the instruments of political power, it was inevitable that Tesla would have to choose sides on this one – either they join the brief or they would be seen by the public as supporting the immigration order. Tesla, for their part, says that they “insisted” on joining the brief as soon as they heard about it this morning.
Other tech companies have been subject to increased scrutiny lately even for actions which don’t explicitly support the immigration order. CEO Travis Kalanick of Uber recently left the same Advisory Forum due to public backlash against his position there and Uber’s actions during the recent JFK airport taxi strike, which spawned a #DeleteUber campaign on social media. Uber has been working quickly to rebuild trust in the wake of this backlash, and was one of the original 97 companies filing the amicus brief against the order yesterday.
Musk’s position on the Forum has also caused some customer backlash, so Tesla must have decided that going along with the crowd in joining the brief was the safer position to take. Nevertheless, Musk has been steadfast about the need to have rational voices advising the new administration on environmental and economic issues, and wants to stay on the Forum in the hope that he can offer suggestions on policy and nudge the administration towards “the greater good.” The public does seem to be reacting well to Musk’s statement justifying his position on the Forum so far.