Much like the American populace, two Silicon Valley billionaires have had starkly differing views about the stay-at-home orders. Facebook’s Zuckerberg has endorsed the measures while Tesla’s Elon Musk has labelled them outright anti-democratic.
The contrast mirrors the on-going debate in the U.S regarding opening up the country to avoid an economic collapse without endangering citizens who are more vulnerable to the spreading virus. San Francisco Bay Area, where the two companies are based announced an extension of its shelter-in-place Wednesday that will allow more freedom beyond the essential activities that are currently allowed.
Meanwhile, Facebook and Tesla both reported profitable earnings and had conference calls that discussed the effects of COVID-19 on Wednesday. Musk, said in the comments to an Tesla Inc.’s earning call that it was “fascist” to say people cannot leave their homes. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO went on to say “This is undemocratic. This is not freedom. Give people back their goddamn freedom”.
Musk’s statements have hit company’s share price, despite a profitable quarter.
These statements add to the Musk’s stream of inflammatory comments over Twitter and conference calls. He had proclaimed “free America now” and it was only on Wednesday morning that he had congratulated Texas for its plans to reopen businesses in a series of tweets.
In stark contrast, Zuckerberg voiced concerns over the relaxation of lockdown measures. The Facebook CEO expressed that any steps taken keeping the economy in mind could cost the populace more outbreaks and further remarked that the economic fallout from the pandemic would last longer than people are currently anticipating. “I worry that reopening certain places too quickly before infection rates have been reduced will almost guarantee future outbreaks and worse longer term health and economic outcomes”.
Zuckerberg went on to also appreciate his employees working from home. The differing views of the two CEOs are reflective of distinct experiences of both companies throughout the pandemic. Tesla had kept its Fremont factories open violating shelter-in-place orders until agreeing on March 19th to suspend production. Even so, the company reported a third profitable quarter in a row.
Despite this, Musk said “It will cause great harm, not just to Tesla but to any companies. And while Tesla will weather the storm, there are small companies that will not” continuing his strong stance fuelled by incentive to maintain business momentum. On the other hand, Facebook recorded a dramatic rise in usage but also experienced a plunge in the case of ad revenues.
Despite the broad based pullback in advertising, Zuckerberg’s health-related worries regarding the stay-at-home orders surpass revenue concerns. The exchange of starkly opposing opinions is reminiscent of the knock-down argument in 2017 between the two about artificial intelligence. Musk and Zuckerberg had disagreed about whether robots could become powerful enough to kill their own creators.