In a Twitter rant, Elon Musk vowed to create a news credibility rating site called ‘Pravda’ — here’s how that’s connected to Russia

A man reads an issue of Pravda newspaper in Moscow, Russia, December 1941.

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A man reads an issue of Pravda newspaper in Moscow, Russia, December 1941.
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Wikipedia Commons

  • Elon Musk went on a Twitter rant on Wednesday afternoon, criticizing the media for allegedly publishing lies.
  • At one point, he tweeted that he plans to start a site called “Pravda” that would rate the credibility of news organizations.
  • Pravda is the name of a Russian newspaper that served as the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Although it launched in the early 20th century, its mission in later decades was to be the mouthpiece for Vladimir Lenin and then Joseph Stalin.
  • It still exists today under Russia’s modern Communist party, but not many people read it. Another publication, called the Pravda Report, does not have Communist ties and publishes both real news and conspiracy theories.

Elon Musk is apparently hoping to take a page out of the Soviet playbook.

It all started when, on Wednesday afternoon, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO criticized the media in a series of tweets.

“The holier-than-thou hypocrisy of big media companies who lay claim to the truth, but publish only enough to sugarcoat the lie, is why the public no longer respects them,” he wrote.

Several minutes later, Musk followed up by tweeting that he plans to start a site that would rate the credibility of news organizations. He wrote that he would consider calling the site “Pravda,” a word that means “truth” in Russian.

“Pravda” references the Russian newspaper of the same name, which launched in Moscow in the early 20th century and published daily. It still exists today, but has a much lower circulation and comes out three times per week. The paper is now run by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the country’s modern Communist party.

From 1918 to 1991, the original Pravda served as the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. When Vladimir Lenin and (later) Joseph Stalin ruled Russia, the paper was used to spread their ideas as propaganda.

During the Soviet era, Pravda was distributed nationwide. Featuring articles on Communist theory and programs, it attempted to avoid sensational news.

There’s also the Pravda Report, another publication with a similar name that English speakers may be more familiar with. Existing solely as an online site at Pravda.ru, it covers both straightforward news (often with a Russian nationalist slant) as well as conspiracy theories. A few headlines in the past decade have included “AIDS: 21st Century’s Biggest Hoax” and “Aliens forced Americans out from the Moon.” Unlike today’s Pravda, the Pravda Report has an English-language site and is not connected to the Communist party.

This is not the first time Musk has railed against the media. Earlier this week on Twitter, he also criticized journalists from Reveal, the nonprofit investigative news organization that ran a story claiming Tesla didn’t report several factory injuries. Tesla workers have also accused Musk of shutting down efforts to unionize, and BuzzFeed recently leaked emails that show Musk slamming their organized labor effort.

On Twitter, a number of journalists and other commenters have compared Musk’s latest tweets to those of President Donald Trump, who frequently criticizes the media for stories he perceives as negative.

The Verge reporter Andrew J. Hawkins, for example, called Musk a “media-baiting Trump figure” on Wednesday.

Musk replied: “Thought you’d say that. Anytime anyone criticizes the media, the media shrieks ‘You’re just like Trump!’ Why do you think he got elected in the first place? Because no ones believes you any more. You lost your credibility a long time ago.'”

Musk might be serious about launching his own “Pravda.” As freelance reporter Mark Harris pointed out on Twitter, documents from California’s Secretary of State show that one of Musk’s agents incorporated Pravda Corp in October 2017.