The comment capped a chaotic weekend through which Musk abruptly modified course on a number of main points for the corporate, which he acquired for $44 billion a little bit over every week in the past. After shedding about half of the workforce on Friday, Twitter started scrambling to rehire some who have been let go. It postponed the deliberate launch of its new paid verification product till after the midterm elections.
And it suspended standard accounts for impersonating Musk, beneath a brand new coverage that the corporate’s new CEO introduced Sunday.
To independent-minded voters:
Shared energy curbs the worst excesses of each events, subsequently I like to recommend voting for a Republican Congress, provided that the Presidency is Democratic.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 7, 2022
Musk’s endorsement of GOP candidates to his 115 million Twitter followers, a day earlier than midterm elections, is more likely to intensify the partisan divide over his takeover of the platform. Lawmakers prior to now have grilled executives of social media firms together with Twitter, Fb, Instagram and YouTube as as to whether their selections might have influenced election outcomes, at the same time as these executives have studiously prevented signaling their preferences for a given occasion or candidate.
Musk has proven himself to be an outspoken and sometimes erratic CEO, susceptible to outbursts — typically in public boards comparable to earnings calls. In the meantime his public pronouncements on Tesla have at instances damaged well-understood norms, such because the expectation that firm leaders withhold touch upon market-moving issues through the buying and selling day.
“Tesla inventory worth is just too excessive imo,” he declared in a single tweet — sending the inventory plunging. Musk tweeted in 2018 that he had “Funding secured” to take Tesla non-public for $420 per share, main the Securities and Trade Fee to accuse him of deceptive buyers. Musk and Tesla every agreed to pay $20 million fines within the ordeal, and Musk relinquished his board chairmanship of Tesla within the settlement.
However Musk’s shoot-from-the-hip ethos carries new gravity as he runs Twitter, a extremely influential discussion board the place thousands and thousands hunt down information, election info and communications from world leaders. As Musk’s curiosity in proudly owning Twitter was turning into obvious, he mentioned Twitter serves as a “de facto public city sq.,” and will adhere to ideas of free speech, doing little past what the legislation explicitly requires to police itself.
His endorsement within the elections because the CEO of a massively influential social media website shines a brand new mild on how he plans to execute that imaginative and prescient.
Musk’s endorsement of Republicans could come as a shock to some, however he has been expressing disdain for the route of the Democratic Get together in recent times. In April, he wrote that he strongly supported Obama for president, however that the occasion had been “hijacked by extremists.”
“I assist free speech, however not anybody candidate. In reality, I gave cash to & voted for Hillary & then voted for Biden,” he tweeted in Might. “Nonetheless, given unprovoked assaults by main Democrats in opposition to me & a really chilly shoulder to Tesla & SpaceX, I intend to vote Republican.”
Musk gave further perception into his politics on Monday, tweeting “To be clear, my historic occasion affiliation has been Unbiased, with an precise voting historical past of solely Democrat till this yr.” He added he’d be open to voting Democrat sooner or later.
To be clear, my historic occasion affiliation has been Unbiased, with an precise voting historical past of solely Democrat till this yr
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 7, 2022
Musk had expressed frustration with California’s authorities amid shelter-in-place orders throughout coronavirus restrictions in 2020, as Tesla’s manufacturing unit there was closed. In Might of that yr, he defiantly reopened Tesla’s plant — accepting the assist of President Donald Trump in his push to interrupt with county-level stay-at-home orders. Musk broke right into a profanity-laced rant throughout a Tesla earnings name across the time, calling quarantine measures “fascist.”
Musk’s sudden, dramatic strikes energized some on the best, who view Musk as reversing Twitter’s leftward shift beneath earlier management. And it saved many customers glued to Twitter, the place his follower rely continued to develop quickly over the weekend.
Musk mentioned Friday that Twitter has seen a “large drop in income, as a consequence of activist teams pressuring advertisers” to cease promoting on the platform.
Researchers noticed early indicators that the dialog on the platform was already altering within the first week of Musk’s possession, as conspiracy theorists appeared emboldened by his guarantees of a hands-off strategy to policing the platform.
In Musk’s first 5 days of possession of Twitter, posts from accounts associated to the baseless pro-Trump extremist group QAnon almost doubled in keeping with the nonprofit Advance Democracy, which conducts public curiosity analysis. And tweets casting doubt on U.S. elections have been receiving hundreds of retweets and no labels, the analysis discovered.
Musk sought to quell the considerations of advertisers, however the difficulty ballooned as he selected to conduct large-scale layoffs within the run-up to the midterm elections, prompting fears about how the platform could be policed. It hadn’t helped that Musk himself, days after taking possession of the location, shared a publish containing misinformation in regards to the assault on Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi. Musk tweeted, then deleted, a publish linking to a conspiracy theory-laden article from the Santa Monica Observer, described by fact-checkers as a low-credibility supply favoring the acute proper.
Some advertisers selected to precise warning as Twitter entered the period of Musk’s possession.
Corporations together with Common Motors, Volkswagen Group and Common Mills all mentioned they have been pausing promoting on Twitter. In the meantime civil rights teams known as for an advertiser boycott, with NAACP President Derrick Johnson saying, “It’s immoral, harmful, and extremely harmful to our democracy for any advertiser to fund a platform that fuels hate speech, election denialism, and conspiracy theories.”
Beneath monetary stress to show the corporate round rapidly, Musk has been touting a plan to cost customers $8 per thirty days to get verified and obtain a examine mark testifying to their account’s authenticity, amongst different advantages. Musk initially promised the brand new subscription plan, generally known as Twitter Blue, would launch on Monday, and there was widespread confusion Saturday about whether or not the characteristic was launching.
However an individual accustomed to the plans, who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate inside plans, informed The Washington Submit the launch is not going to occur till after the midterms. The New York Occasions first reported the delay.
The corporate started reaching out over the weekend to attempt to rehire workers it had simply laid off, in keeping with a number of inside sources, together with two with direct data of the rehiring efforts who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate delicate issues. Among the many individuals Twitter is alleged to be searching for to rehire are engineers who labored on the corporate’s Android app, members of its Cortex machine-learning crew, and others with particular technical experience wanted to launch new merchandise, sources informed The Submit. The try to deliver again laid-off workers was first reported by Platformer on Friday.
“They’re asking individuals to return again as a result of a number of issues are breaking there,” mentioned one laid-off Twitter worker who was requested about their curiosity in returning to the corporate. A number of groups “have been utterly eradicated with out a lot thought and now it’s inflicting roadblocks for different groups. It’s been a irritating week for these employed, too.”
The worker, who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate personnel issues, informed The Submit they deliberate to say no the supply to return.
Producing a few of the most controversy, Twitter began suspending accounts “engaged in impersonation” on Sunday after Musk introduced that each one accounts falsely utilizing the names of actual individuals with out a “parody” label could be instantly banned from the platform.
The transfer got here after a flood of customers modified their show names to match Musk’s — a lot of whom jeered his controversial announcement that Twitter would quickly cost customers $8 per thirty days for verification.
“Going ahead, any Twitter handles participating in impersonation with out clearly specifying ‘parody’ might be completely suspended,” Musk tweeted Sunday afternoon. “Beforehand, we issued a warning earlier than suspension, however now that we’re rolling out widespread verification, there might be no warning.”
The brand new impersonation coverage appeared to contradict Musk’s assurance final week that he would convene a “content material moderation council with broadly various viewpoints” earlier than making any main selections. In Might, Musk criticized everlasting suspensions, saying that they “essentially undermine belief in Twitter.”
Musk had additionally beforehand indicated he would reinstate completely suspended accounts comparable to that of Trump, who was banned after the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol beneath Twitter’s insurance policies in opposition to inciting violence. However final week he mentioned the corporate wouldn’t deliver again Trump or different banned accounts earlier than the midterms.
Amongst these suspended from Twitter for altering their show names to “Elon Musk” was comic Kathy Griffin, who, beneath Musk’s moniker, urged People to vote for Democrats within the midterm elections.
“I’ve determined that voting blue for his or her alternative is just proper,” she wrote shortly earlier than her account was suspended. YouTuber Ethan Klein was additionally gave the impression to be suspended from the platform after he joined these impersonating Musk.
Griffin’s followers known as Twitter’s transfer a crackdown on freedom of speech and parody, utilizing the hashtag #freekathy to criticize the platform’s new coverage. Afterward Sunday, Musk, who’s the world’s richest individual, tweeted that Griffin might have her account again if she paid up.
“If she actually desires her account again, she will have it,” Musk wrote. “For $8.”
Verification! Impersonation! Twitter Blue! There’s so much occurring round id on Twitter — let’s break down what our insurance policies are, and a few of the massive questions we nonetheless must reply…
— Yoel Roth (@yoyoel) November 8, 2022
Late Monday, Twitter’s head of security and integrity, Yoel Roth, expanded on the brand new emphasis on impersonation in a tweet thread, arguing that the location’s enlargement of verification — denoted by a blue examine mark — raises the stakes.
“When Verified accounts use impersonation as a tactic — whether or not for parody or not — it creates an particularly complicated expertise,” he wrote, including such accounts could be suspended when Twitter found them. “We’re significantly targeted on the dangers of impersonation of public officers within the context of the US 2022 midterm elections, and have made the choice to not launch Verification for Twitter Blue till after Election Day.”
Going ahead, he mentioned, Twitter ought to make investments extra in id verification — along with making certain people are behind accounts on the location. The $8 per thirty days cost would most likely assist the location’s efforts to combat spam perpetrated by nonhuman accounts, however there was nonetheless work to be executed to make sure that accounts are tied to the individuals claiming to be behind them.
“No answer to id is ideal, and we’re iterating rapidly to give you the most effective strategy right here,” he mentioned.
Cat Zakrzewski contributed to this report.