Musk asks Twitter users if he should step down after being furious with his policies
SAN FRANCISCO — High-level Twitter users were suspended without warning or explanation, then abruptly reinstated.
A new policy to prevent users from sharing links and usernames from other social platforms was rolled out, then apparently restricted.
And Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, posted a flurry of messages to his 122 million followers asking if he should step down as head of the social media service while lamenting that no one else wanted to. post.
It was another chaotic 48 hours on Twitter, which has been mired in turmoil since Mr. Musk completed the takeover of the company for $44 billion in late October. His tenure has already been marred by mass layoffs, executive resignations and unpaid bills at the company. Advertisers backed down, competing services surged, and many Twitter users feared the service would simply stop working.
But over the weekend, a series of actions on Mr Musk’s platform that seemed random and capricious upset Twitter users so much that outrage mounted – and then turned to disgust. The backlash became so intense that even Mr. Musk’s most outspoken supporters seemed to backtrack.
Critics included Silicon Valley technologists and entrepreneurs who previously backed Mr Musk, such as Paul Graham, founder of start-up accelerator Y Combinator, and investor Balaji Srinivasan. Mr Musk’s latest actions with Twitter have been “the last straw”, Mr Graham tweeted on Sunday.
Outrage even among Mr Musk’s Silicon Valley cohort prompted what appeared to be a crisis of confidence on the part of the 51-year-old billionaire, who was pictured earlier today attending the World Cup final in Qatar with Jared Kushner.
Inside Elon Musk’s Twitter
“Should I leave the head of Twitter? Mr Musk tweeted on Sunday evening after Twitter users continued to question his actions. By early evening in San Francisco, nearly six million users had responded and the 24-hour questionnaire was leaning toward “yes.”
Mr Musk, who often hosts it in the biggest moments, said he would respect whatever Twitter users decide. No successor has been identified, he said.
Twitter users had grown increasingly agitated over Mr Musk’s ownership since the middle of last week.
It started last Wednesday when Twitter banned more than 25 accounts that tracked the locations of private planes – including that of Mr Musk – using publicly available information. While Mr Musk previously promised to allow the account, known as @ElonJet, to remain online, he later said he was considering the accounts, which also track the planes of oligarchs, government agencies and celebrities, as a security risk.
Mr Musk justified his action by introducing a new Twitter policy that banned accounts if they shared another person’s “live location”.
On Thursday, Mr Musk used the policy to ban the Twitter account of Mastodon, the alternative social media network, after he used his account to announce @ElonJet’s new presence on its platform. He also suspended the accounts of journalists from The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other outlets after they shared links or screenshots of Mastodon’s tweet promoting @ElonJet. (One of the suspended accounts was that of Ryan Mac, a Times reporter and author of this article.)
The suspensions were lifted on Friday after Mr Musk asked his supporters if he should reinstate the accounts and 59% of respondents said yes. But by then, the criticism had piled up.
“If Twitter owner Elon Musk really wants to promote a platform that enables free speech for everyone, it makes no sense to remove journalists from the platform,” said Jodie Ginsberg, president. of the Committee to Protect Journalists, in a statement at the time.
Then late Saturday, Twitter suspended Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz’s account after he posted a message asking Mr. Musk to comment on an upcoming story. Mr. Musk later said that Ms. Lorenz had been suspended for a “prior action of doxxingor sharing non-public identifying information online. Ms. Lorenz does not appear to have revealed anyone’s personal information in the tweets visible in her timeline.
On Sunday, Twitter went even further. The company abruptly announced a new policy saying that it will no longer allow accounts created solely for the purpose of promoting other social platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Mastodon. Mr Musk said the change was made to prevent “relentless advertising by competitors for free, which is absurd in the extreme”.
The move proved very unpopular with users, who are used to open social networks where posts and videos can be easily shared across platforms. The new policy also appears contrary to Mr. Musk’s statements about his commitment to an open web and giving people more transparency in corporate decisions.
Mr Graham, a Y Combinator founder who had backed Mr Musk’s takeover, tweeted that new rules banning the promotion of other competing platforms caused him to “give up” on Twitter and told his subscribers to find it on Mastodon. Twitter then suspended Mr Graham’s account. (Mr. Musk later said that Mr. Graham’s account would be restored.)
Other Silicon Valley technologists and venture capitalists said they were “done” with Twitter and started exploring alternative services. Ben McKenzie, an actor and notorious cryptocurrency skeptic, said he was taking a break from Twitter, adding, “This site isn’t as fun as it used to be.” Other users have accused Mr Musk of acting like a dictator.
Mr. Musk began to backtrack. He adjusted the new policy so that only accounts whose primary purpose was to promote competitors would be suspended.
“Going forward there will be a vote for major policy changes,” he tweeted. “My apologies. This will not happen again.
Moments later, Mr. Musk asked his followers if he should step down from his leadership role at Twitter. Then he added: “Nobody wants the job that can actually keep Twitter alive. There is no successor.