With just a few words, memes, emojis and likes, the world’s third-richest person has sent the value of cryptocurrencies both diving and soaring in recent months – notably with his jocular backing of dogecoin, followed more recently by sobering claims of concern over bitcoin’s environmental impact.
In the latest turn of the saga, which has seen crypto investors’ fortunes rise and fall, the value of bitcoin dropped seven per cent on Friday after Musk shared a meme about a breakup to his 56 million Twitter followers, which some investors took as an indication that his electric vehicle company could intend to sell off its coins, having purchased $1.5bn-worth in February.
The hacking group claimed his erratic public dalliance with cryptocurrencies “show a clear disregard for the average working person”.
Suggesting that Mr Musk has “enjoyed one of the most favourable reputations of anyone in the billionaire class” by tapping into the desire many people have to live in a world with electric cars and space exploration, a Guy Fawkes mask-clad member of the hactivist group described him as the only CEO of such a company to have “gained a cult following through s***posting and trolling the world on social media”.
In a video viewed more than one million times since it was posted on Saturday, the Anonymous member cited a number of Musk’s past comments and allegations against him as they said it seems his “quest to save the world is more rooted in a superiority and saviour complex than it is an actual concern for humanity”.
In an attempt to illustrate this claim, they referred to an article on conditions at Tesla factories which they described as “intolerable” for workers, and another which said Mr Musk’s family previously owned an emerald mine in Zambia.
They also pointed to a number of Musk’s past comments, including an instance where he wrote “we will coup whoever we want” in relation to the US-backed coup on ousted president Evo Morales in lithium-rich Bolivia, and another in which jokingly proclaimed himself “emperor of Mars” in an apparent reference to his desire to colonise the Red Planet – an effort in which he has conceded a “bunch of people will probably die”.
The hacking group also sought to discredit Musk’s recent criticisms of bitcoin by implying that his sudden volte face could have been influenced by the US government – which has been vocally critical of cryptocurrencies – funding his companies are reported to have previously received, a claim for which the activist offered speculation but no proof.
Referring to the “very nuanced” issue of bitcoin’s carbon footprint, which is currently estimated to equal that of New Zealand’s, the hacking group said: “This is a conversation that you have been having for over a year and were intimately aware of.
“But as soon as your main source of income was threatened, you pretended to be clueless in an attempt to play both sides of the fence.”
The Los Angeles Times estimated in 2015 that Tesla, SolarCity, and SpaceX had together benefited from $4.9bn (£3.5bn) in government support. This included tax credits – a mechanism used in places including the US, Europe and China whereby car manufacturers can meet government emissions rules by purchasing “credits” from greener firms.
Multiple outlets including The Financial Times and CNBC have reported that selling credits to rivals has been a financial lifeline for Tesla, and has often accounted for much of the firm’s profitability, as evidenced by the firm’s earning reports. However, there is no evidence to suggest this has any connection with Mr Musk’s recent change of heart with regards to bitcoin.
“As hard-working people have their dreams liquidated over your public temper tantrums, you continue to mock them with memes from one of your million-dollar mansions,” the Anonymous member said, before concluding with a sign-off familiar from the previous videos from the group, which has attacked individuals, firms and organisations such as the Church of Scientology, Sarah Palin, Visa, Amazon and Paypal.
“You may think you are the smartest person in the room, but now you’ve met your match. We are anonymous. We are Legion. Expect us.”
Musk has not yet addressed the clip publicly, but later posted on Twitter: “Don’t kill what you hate, save what you love.”