Inside the nearly 8-year-long feud between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg

Inside the nearly 8-year-long feud between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg
  • There's no love lost between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg.

  • The CEOs have been feuding since 2016, when a SpaceX explosion destroyed a Facebook satellite.

  • Here's a history of their feud.

For nearly eight years, two of tech's biggest names — Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg — have been caught up in a feud, clashing over topics like artificial intelligence and rockets.

The two men have been griping about each other behind closed doors for years, according to The Wall Street Journal. But the tech moguls haven't exactly kept their rivalry a secret from the public, either.

When a rocket from Musk's SpaceX exploded and destroyed a satellite from Zuckerberg's Facebook in 2016, Zuckerberg issued a heated statement, saying he was "deeply disappointed" about SpaceX's failure. And when Facebook became embroiled in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Musk publicly deleted his companies' Facebook pages, tweeting that the company gave him "the willies."


In June 2023, the two men threatened to make their fight physical and face each other in a cage match.

The two billionaires are among the richest people on the planet, placing them in an elite circle, even by Silicon Valley standards. Even though both work in artificial intelligence and social media, and their companies have partnered in the past, it seems there's no love lost between Musk and Zuckerberg.

Here's where their feud began and everything that's happened since.

The Musk-Zuckerberg feud dates back to at least 2016, when a SpaceX rocket explosion destroyed a Facebook satellite.

SpaceX explosion
An explosion on the launch site of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in 2016.Launch Report/Handout via REUTERS

In September 2016, SpaceX was testing its Falcon 9 rocket at a launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Shortly after 9 a.m. the rocket exploded, destroying Facebook's AMOS-6 satellite, which was supposed to ride the rocket into space.

The satellite was part of Facebook's project to deliver internet connectivity to the developing world, and it would have been Facebook's first satellite in orbit.

Zuckerberg seemed openly frustrated that the launch failed, writing on Facebook that he was "deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX's launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent."

Two years later, Musk addressed the failed launch in a post on Twitter to the reporter Kerry Flynn.

"Yeah, my fault for being an idiot," Musk said. "We did give them a free launch to make up for it, and I think they had some insurance."

In 2017, Zuckerberg criticized Musk's attitude toward artificial intelligence, which seemed to get a rise out of Musk.

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg said he doesn't understand people who try to make up doomsday scenarios about AI.Drew Angerer/Getty Images

During a Facebook Live broadcast, a viewer asked Zuckerberg for his thoughts on Musk's anxieties around AI.

"I have pretty strong opinions on this," Zuckerberg said. "With AI especially, I'm really optimistic, and I think that people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios ... I don't understand it. It's really negative, and in some ways, I actually think it's pretty irresponsible."

Musk, who has repeatedly called for regulation and caution when it comes to new AI technology, shot back on Twitter.

"I've talked to Mark about this," he said in response to a tweet about Zuckerberg's comments. "His understanding of the subject is limited."

In 2018, following Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal, Musk made a public show of deleting SpaceX and Tesla's Facebook pages.

Elon Musk
Musk deleted SpaceX and Tesla's Facebook accounts in 2018.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

After the WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton tweeted, "It is time. #deletefacebook," Musk responded, "What's Facebook?"

A fan responded to Musk's tweet asking whether he'd delete the SpaceX Facebook page, to which Musk responded, "I didn't realize there was one. Will do."

After another fan pointed out that Tesla had a Facebook page too, Musk tweeted that it "looks lame anyway."

Soon after, both the SpaceX and Tesla pages disappeared from Facebook. Musk said it wasn't a "political statement" and that he just found Facebook unsettling.


Musk continued his campaign against Facebook in early 2020.

facebook mark zuckerberg
Elon Musk urged people to delete Facebook.Andrew Harnik/AP


In response to a tweet from the actor Sacha Baron Cohen, which called for more regulation of Facebook, Musk urged people once again to delete the app.


Following the riot at the US Capitol in 2021, Musk used Twitter to share memes linking the riots to Facebook.

Elon Musk
Musk criticized Facebook's data-sharing practices.Maja Hitij/Getty Images

On the evening of the rampage in Washington, Musk tweeted, "This is called the domino effect," along with an image of dominoes, with the first one labeled "a website to rate women on campus," a reference to Facebook's inception at Harvard University. The last domino referenced the rioters.

Musk also criticized Facebook's data-sharing practices, tweeting another meme about Facebook that mentioned the company "spying" on users following the announcement by Facebook-owned WhatsApp that it would start forcing users to share their personal data with the platform.

Musk tweeted that people should "use Signal," an encrypted messaging app. His tweet was retweeted by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, another tech executive who has sparred with Zuckerberg.

Last year, Musk criticized Zuckerberg's ironclad control of Meta.

A side-by-side composite image of Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk.
Musk compared Zuckerberg's control of Meta to a monarchy.Kevin Dietsch/Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images

The Tesla CEO compared Zuckerberg's control of Meta to a monarchy during an interview at the TED conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Facebook's parent company changed its name to Meta in October 2021.)

The interviewer, Chris Anderson, asked Musk whether his status as the richest man and one of Twitter's top influencers could pose a conflict of interest if he bought the platform. Musk used the opportunity to take a swipe at his rival.

"As for media sort of ownership, I mean, you've got Mark Zuckerberg owning Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp, and with a share ownership structure that will have Mark Zuckerberg the 14th still controlling those entities," Musk said.

He went on to say that he "won't have that at Twitter."

Tensions appeared to get even higher between the two CEOs after Musk bought Twitter.

Illustration of Elon Musk and the Twitter logo
Elon Musk took over Twitter on October 27, 2022 and renamed it "X."Jonathan Raa/Getty Images

In December, Meta first brainstormed ideas for a Twitter competitor in order to capitalize on  Musk's chaotic Twitter takeover, according to a report from The New York Times. The company confirmed to Platformer in March that it's working on its own text-based social network, codenamed "Project 92."

Earlier this month, Meta's chief product officer, Chris Cox, appeared to mock Musk and Twitter by saying in an all-hands meeting that it the site will be "a platform that is sanely run."

Musk hasn't taken kindly to the news that Zuckerberg is creating an X competitor.

Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2019, wearing a suit and looking serious with facebook logo in background.
Musk taunted Zuckerberg on X.Erin Scott/Reuters

The billionaire taunted Zuckerberg on X, formerly Twitter, about his rival text-based social media platform.

"I'm sure Earth can't wait to be exclusively under Zuck's thumb with no other options," Musk posted in June.

Later writing: "Zuck my" with a tongue emoji.



Zuckerberg offered some rare praise for Musk and his plans for X in June 2023.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook/Meta, is seen in attendance during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on October 01, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Zuckerberg praised Musk's push to make X leaner in a podcast interview.Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

On an episode of "The Lex Fridman Podcast," the Meta CEO praised Musk's "push early on to make Twitter a lot leaner."

"I think that those were generally good changes," Zuckerberg said on the podcast.

When the Tesla CEO took over X, he more than halved the company's workforce. Zuckerberg has taken similar cost cutting measures at Meta, initiating a series of layoffs and dubbing 2023 the "year of efficiency."


The two men have reportedly been grumbling about each other in private for years.

Elon Musk's mother, Maye Musk, says her son should "fight with words only."
Zuckerberg reportedly wanted the recognition Musk received for years.Getty

People who have heard each man's private comments about the feud told The Wall Street Journal in a report published last June that Zuckerberg had long yearned for the public recognition Musk has received over the years as a tech pioneer and that Musk has fretted over Zuckerberg's early success with Facebook.

The two men appeared to agree to settle some of their differences in a cage match last June.

Mark Zuckerberg participates in jiu-jitsu tournaments and Bill Gates has played tennis against Jeff Bezos.
Mark Zuckerberg participated in a jiu-jitsu tournament.Mark Zuckerberg/Instagram

Last June, Musk said he'd be "up for a cage match" with Zuckerberg. 

The X owner brought up the idea after X users cautioned him to be careful dissing Zuckerberg since he knows jiu-jitsu.

It's unclear whether Musk was joking about the offer to fight the Meta CEO in a cage match. He said via X, "If this is real, I will do it," but later appeared to poke fun at his own fighting skills.

Zuckerberg appears to be taking the idea of a match seriously. After Musk first posted on X that he would be  "up for a cage fight," the Meta CEO posted a screenshot of the post on Instagram with the words "Send me location," and a Meta spokesperson later told The Verge that Zuckerberg is not joking about the offer.

Only time will tell if the two CEOs will duke it out in person.

Some people have already begun placing odds on the fight. Business Insider's Hasan Chowdhury reported that Musk's chances of beating Zuckerberg are slim. 39-year-old Zuckerberg has been trained in MMA fighting and even won some medals at a jiu-jitsu competition in May 2023.

Zuckerberg said he was ready to fight since the day Musk challenged him.

Mark Zuckerberg (left) and Elon Musk (right)
Zuckerberg said you'll hear it from him if Musk agrees on a date.JOSH EDELSON/Getty Images; Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Zuckerberg said in a Threads post in August 2023 that he was "ready to fight since the day Elon challenged" him.

"If he ever agrees on an actual date, you'll hear it from me," Zuckerberg said in the post. "Until then, please assume anything he says has not been agreed on."

Musk posted on X two days later that "Zuck is a chicken."

"He can't eat at chic fil a because that would be cannibalism," he wrote in a separate post on the same day.


A day after Zuckerberg's 40th birthday, Musk revived the cage-match proposal in a post on X.

Elon Musk.
Musk made another attempt at fighting Zuckerberg.Anna Webber/Variety/Getty Images

Musk's gift to Zuckerberg for his 40th birthday was a challenge to fight him, once again.

"If only Zuckerberg were as tough (sigh). I've offered to fight him any place, any time, any rules, but all I hear is crickets," Musk said in an X post on May 15.

Musk's post was in response to a satirical news story about a face-off between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

Meta and xAI are now competing against each other to partner with Character.AI

Elon Musk next to xAI's logo on a phone
xAI recently announced that it raised $6 billion in funding.Anadolu

Character.AI is a platform with AI celebrity personas and characters that act as chatbots. Meta has already added a similar feature to its platforms, with celebrity chatbots voiced by big names like Kendall Jenner and MrBeast available.

The Andreessen Horowitz-backed startup was valued at $1 billion last year and according to a Financial Times report from May 24, Meta and xAI have held exploratory talks with Character.AI about working together. No deal has been reached yet with either company, the report said.

Both companies are heavily investing in AI as the race to scale capabilities heats up. Both Meta and X offer AI chatbots on their social media platforms.

Zuckerberg has expressed plans to spend "aggressively" on AI and said Meta's mission is to build artificial general intelligence, a level of AI that could outperform humans.

Meanwhile, xAI announced on May 26 that it raised $6 billion in funding. Recent reports also indicate Musk is planning to build a supercomputer, the "gigafactory of compute," to train the latest version of Grok.


Read the original article on Business Insider