He may be good with rockets and electric cars, but don’t turn to Elon Musk for public health predictions.
“Almost zero new cases in the US probably by the end of April too,” the world’s richest man tweeted about COVID-19 in March 2020, just as the pandemic intensified.
It’s one of many tweets that give a glimpse into the mind of Twitter’s new owner and head moderator. Playful, aggressive and at times reckless, Musk’s past tweets show how he’s used social media to praise his companies, hit back at critics and polish his brand as a brash billionaire who isn’t afraid to speak his mind..
Musk joined Twitter in 2009 and now has more than 112 million followers – the third most of all accounts after former President Barack Obama and Canadian singer Justin Bieber. He had long doubted the purchase of the platform before the $44 billion deal was finalized last week.
Musk did not detail the changes he plans to make on Twitter, though he wasted no time making widespread layoffs. But he has said he wants to make Twitter a haven for free speech. He said he disagrees with the platform’s decision to ban ex-President Donald Trump for inciting violence ahead of the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack.
“I hope even my worst critics stay on Twitter because that’s what free speech means,” Musk tweeted earlier this year when he announced his intention to buy the platform.
As CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Musk uses his Twitter account to make business announcements and promote his ventures. He muses on technology and trade, but has also posted jokes about female breasts and once compared the Canadian prime minister to Hitler. He regularly weighs in on global events, as he did in March 2020 when he tweeted that “the coronavirus pandemic is stupid”.
That same month, he tweeted that children were largely immune to the virus and predicted that the cases would soon disappear.
Musk has also used his Twitter account to weigh in on other major news events — with mixed results.
This fall, Musk outraged leaders in Ukraine when he took to Twitter to launch a possible peace deal. Under Musk’s plan, Russia would be allowed to keep Crimea, which it captured from Ukraine in 2014, and Ukraine would have to abandon its plans to join NATO.
Musk also suggested that people living in other areas illegally annexed by Russia should vote on whether Russia or Ukraine should take control of the areas — a move Ukrainian supporters say would reward Russia for its illegal aggression.
“The danger here is that Musk will turn back the clock in the name of ‘free speech’ and turn Twitter into a more powerful engine of hatred, division and misinformation,” said Paul Barrett, a disinformation researcher and the deputy director of Stern Center for Business and Human Rights from New York University.
Stern called Musk’s comments about Ukraine particularly worrying. “This isn’t going to be pretty,” he said.
Just days after purchasing Twitter, Musk waded into yet another firestorm when he posted a link to an article that advanced a bizarre conspiracy theory about the attack on US speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband.. The article suggested that Paul Pelosi and his attacker were lovers, although authorities said the suspect confessed to targeting the speaker and did not know her husband.
Musk later deleted the tweet without explanation.
Musk has long used his Twitter account megaphone to hit back at critics or those he opposes, such as when he attacked a diver who was rescuing boys trapped in a cave in Thailand by “pedoing” him. to call. short for pedophile. The diver had previously mocked Musk’s proposal to use a submarine to rescue the boys. Musk, who won a defamation lawsuit filed by the diver, later said he never intended “pedo” to be interpreted as “pedophile.”
Three days before Elon Musk agreed to buy Twitter, the world’s richest man tweeted a photo of Bill Gates and used a crude sexual term while making a joke about his stomach.
Earlier this year, he criticized the Twitter executive in charge of the platform’s legal, policy and trust departments. In response to his tweets about the director, many of Musk’s followers piled on misogynistic and racist attacks, in addition to calling for Musk to fire her when his Twitter purchase was approved.
Musk fired the director on day one.
Musk’s use of Twitter has sometimes caused problems for his own companies. For example, in an August 2018 tweet, Musk claimed he had the financing to take Tesla private for $420 a share, although a court has ruled that this was not true. That led to an SEC investigation that Musk is still fighting.
Last year, another federal agency, the National Labor Relations Board, ordered Musk to delete a tweet in which officials said they had illegally threatened to cancel stock options for Tesla employees who joined the United Auto Workers union.
Those tweets helped cement Musk’s reputation as a brash outsider. But that doesn’t mean he’s equipped to run a social media platform with more than 200 million users, said Jennifer Grygiel, a professor at Syracuse University who studies social media. Grygiel has assigned Musk’s tweets as reading material for students.
“Look at the feed: it’s everywhere. It’s whimsical. Sometimes it’s pretty extreme,” Grygiel said. “It depicts him as some sort of rebel leader who will take control of the public square to save it. That’s a myth he constructed.”
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