Elon Musk tweets criticism of coronavirus lockdown

"FREE AMERICA NOW," the Tesla boss wrote.

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Elon Musk isn't happy with the US lockdown.

Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Elon Musk spoke out against the ongoing coronavirus lockdowns in a Tuesday night tweet. In subsequent tweets he linked to a Wall Street Journal column arguing that the measures are ineffective in saving lives and to a story about Texas businesses planning to reopen on Friday.

"FREE AMERICA NOW," the and SpaceX CEO wrote to his 33.3 million followers, echoing President Donald Trump's "LIBERATE" tweets from earlier this month.

Musk's tweets drew criticism, with one Twitter user highlighting his March 19 prediction that the US would see "probably close to zero new cases" by the end of April (the US hit 1 million cases on Tuesday). Others supported his messaging -- one suggested he was fighting "government tyranny."

Shortly before the lockdown began in March, Musk took flak for tweeting that "the coronavirus panic is dumb." Later that month, he pledged that his companies would make ventilators for coronavirus patients, as hospitals suffered a shortage. He later said Tesla sent more than 1,000 ventilators to 50 hospitals across the US.

The lockdown has had a huge impact on Tesla's operations, with local government restrictions creating uncertainty about when its Fremont, California, assembly plant will be able to reopen. It closed on March 23, after some uncertainty over Alameda county's shelter-in-place order.

Watch this: Coronavirus lockdown: Why social distancing saves lives

The company is due to report its first-quarter earnings on Wednesday, when Musk himself could be in for a $720 million stock purchase payday.

A Twitter spokesperson said in an emailed statement that Musk's tweet is "currently not in violation" of its rules. The company noted that it wouldn't take enforcement action on every tweet that contains incomplete or disputed information about COVID-19, but it has removed more than 2,400 tweets since it introduced new policy enforcement guidance  on March 18. It also highlighted the effectiveness of its automated systems, which have challenged more than 3.4 million accounts for spamming or manipulating discussions about the pandemic.

The new strain of coronavirus, which can develop into a respiratory illness known as COVID-19, was discovered in Wuhan, China, in December and has spread worldwide in the months since. As of Wednesday morning, it had infected more than 3.1 million people and caused over 217,000 deaths globally.

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