Musk’s past tweets reveal clues about Twitter’s new owner

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He may be good with rockets and electric cars, but don’t go to Elon Musk for public health predictions.

“Probably close to zero new cases in US by end of April,” the world’s richest man tweeted about COVID-19 in March 2020, just as the pandemic was ramping up.

It’s one of many tweets that offer a glimpse into the mind of Twitter’s new owner and moderator-in-chief. Funny, aggressive and sometimes reckless, Musk’s recent Tweets show how he’s used social media to run his business, punch back critics and cement his brand as a brash billionaire who’s not afraid to speak his mind.

Musk joined Twitter in 2009 and now has more than 112 million followers – the third most of any account after former president Barack Obama and Canadian singer Justin Bieber. He had long considered buying the platform before the $44 billion deal was finalized last week.

Musk hasn’t detailed the changes he intends to make on Twitter, though he’s wasting no time in making widespread layoffs. But he said he wants to make Twitter a haven for free speech. He said he disagreed with the platform’s decision to ban former President Donald Trump for inciting violence before the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

“I hope even my worst critics stay on Twitter, because that’s what free speech is all about,” Musk tweeted earlier this year when he announced his intention to buy the platform.

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As CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Musk uses his Twitter account to make business announcements and promote his ventures. He thinks about technology and commerce, but has also posted jokes about women’s breasts and once compared Canada’s prime minister to Hitler. He regularly weighs in on world events, as he did in March 2020 when he tweeted that “the coronavirus pandemic is dumb.”

That same month, he tweeted that children were largely immune to the virus and predicted that cases would soon disappear.

Musk also used his Twitter account to weigh in on other big news events — with mixed results.

This fall, Musk angered leaders in Ukraine when he took to Twitter to float a potential peace deal. According to Musk’s plan, Russia would get to keep Crimea, which it seized 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 have control of their territories — a move that Ukraine’s supporters said would reward Russia for its illegal aggression. .

“The danger here is that in the name of ‘free speech,’ Musk will turn back the clock and turn Twitter into an even more powerful engine of hate, division, and misinformation,” said Paul Barrett, a disinformation researcher and deputy director. .Stern Center for Business and Human Rights at New York University.

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Stern singled out Musk’s comments on Ukraine as particularly insightful. “This is not going to be pretty,” he said.

A few days after buying Twitter Musk stepped into another storm when he posted a link to an article that advanced a rare conspiracy theory about the attack on the husband of US Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 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 the megaphone on his Twitter account to blast critics or opponents, including when he attacked a diver working to rescue a boy trapped in a cave in Thailand by calling him a “pedo,” short for pedophiles. The diver previously scoffed at Musk’s proposal to use a sub to rescue the boys. Musk, who won a defamation lawsuit filed by the diver, later said that he never intended to interpret “pedo” as “pedophile.”

Three days before Elon Musk agreed to buy Twitter, the world’s richest man tweeted a picture of Bill Gates and used a crude sexual term while making a joke about his stomach.

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Earlier this year he criticized the Twitter executive in charge of the platform’s legal, policy and trust division. In response to his tweets about the executive, many of Musk’s followers rallied with misogynistic and racist attacks, in addition to calls for Musk to fire him when his purchase of Twitter was approved.

Musk fired the executive on day one.

Musk’s use of Twitter has sometimes led to problems for his own company. In a tweet in August 2018, for example, Musk claimed that he had the financing to take Tesla private for $420 a share, although a court ruled that it 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 that officials said illegally threatened to cut stock options for Tesla employees who joined the United Auto Workers union.

These tweets helped cement Musk’s reputation as a brave outsider. But that doesn’t mean he’s equipped to lead a social media platform with more than 200 million users, said Jennifer Grygiel, a Syracuse University professor who studies social media. Grygiel assigned Musk’s tweets as reading material for students.

“Look at the food: It’s all over the place. It’s erratic. Sometimes it’s very extreme,” Grygiel said. was built.”

Follow AP’s coverage of Elon Musk at https://apnews.com/hub/elon-musk and follow his coverage of misinformation at https://apnews.com/hub/misinformation.

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