Tesla’s outspoken CEO isn’t the only one with issues around social media. Fans of the brand have recently been accused of using Twitter and Facebook to harass fans of the Ford Mustang Mach-E.
The noted lover of EVs spends much of his time online posting about their benefits. But a recent story about his cross-country trip in a Mach-E has earned him scorn from Tesla fans who are convinced that Ford is paying people to post about its electric crossover.
In a tweet posted on April 3, Rodriguez responded to a post from another Twitter user decrying the negativity of Tesla “fanbois” saying he had received death threats and calling Tesla a “cult.”
It’s annoying. I’ve had some message me death threats over my joy with the Mach-E. You would swear Tesla was their great auntie or other kinfolk. Some of them are complacent with the the defect and just want to be part of the cult…. I mean club. https://t.co/U128qnULYY
— Sergio Rodriguez (@LyftGyft) April 3, 2021
He expanded on his experience, saying that when threats started coming in, he would just report them to Twitter, not thinking to take screenshots. But the moment that really got his attention was when someone posted a story featuring his love of the Mach-E on the Tesla Owners Worldwide Facebook group. The comments alarmed him.
“One was, like, ‘I hope the car loses control and crashes.’ Or ‘The car is going to catch fire when you’re driving it,'” he said. “I took that as a threat. For you to have any kind of ill will on anybody, why would you say that? Then someone privately messaged me, ‘You’re full of s*** and I know what your Tesla looks like. If I see it…’ That private message on Facebook was more threatening.”
Indeed, this is all part of a wider trend online. According to the Pew Research Center, 41 percent of American adults have personally experienced online harassment, with 14 percent having experienced physical threats, 11 percent experiencing online stalking, and 25 percent experiencing what they feel are severe forms of online harassment.
In response to Rodriguez’s tweet, Ford spokesperson Mike Levine responded that he was “so sorry to hear” of the death threats. Levine, too, has been the subject of harsh and relentless criticism online for his role in promoting the Mustang Mach-E and his criticisms of Tesla.
So sorry to hear this. Horrifying. I hope you reported those.
— Mike Levine (@mrlevine) April 3, 2021
The harassment campaign is enough to make Rodriguez think twice about being associated with the Tesla brand.
“Part of me wants to get rid of my Tesla just not to have the association,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “A couple here and there, OK. But folks are commenting and saying disgusting things. ‘You let big oil buy you?’ and ‘How much are people paying you?’ If that’s what’s associated with being a Tesla owner, why do I want to be part of that group? It’s not cool.”
He still believes that many Tesla owners are reasonable and that rivalries can be fun, but doesn’t understand the viciousness of many attacks on him and others.