Facing an outcry, Twitter’s newest owner, Elon Musk, on Sunday deleted a tweet alleging the assault of the husband of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, as his recent acquisition of the platform raised fears of a resurgence of misinformation about the app.
“There is a small possibility that appearances are deceiving,” the billionaire wrote on Sunday morning in a tweet to his 123 million subscribers, deleted in the afternoon.
His post referenced the attack on Paul Pelosi and linked to an article from the conservative Santa Monica Observer website that spread unverified information about the attack.
This media outlet has previously published conspiracy theories and false information, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Paul Pelosi was attacked in his home on Friday by a man with a hammer who was actually looking for Nancy Pelosi. In particular, he suffered from a fractured skull and had to be hospitalized.
Elon Musk responded to a tweet by former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton criticizing conspiracy theories peddled by the Republican Party.
“The Republican Party and its spokespersons are now regularly spreading hate speech and completely crazy conspiracy theories,” the former US secretary of state condemned. “It is shocking, but not surprising, and violence is the result.”
US President Joe Biden also this weekend condemned Mr Pelosi’s aggression, linking it to the consequences of disinformation, ten days before the mid-term elections.
– Flood of insults –
Elon Musk’s tweet sparked a lot of comments and criticism on the social network.
“Clinton: Conspiracy theories are responsible for killing people and we shouldn’t give them visibility. Twitter owner: but have you heard of this conspiracy theory?” summed up Seth Masket, professor of science policy at the University of Denver, who flagged Elon Musk’s tweet as inappropriate for the social network.
“The Elon troll should warn Twitter boss Elon about the retraction (of this tweet),” commented former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression David Kaye, ironically about the billionaire’s various caps.
Asked by AFP, Twitter did not immediately respond.
The whimsical boss of Tesla and SpaceX, who stands up as a defender of freedom of expression, has confirmed several times that he wants to turn Twitter into a kind of digital agora, where all opinions are free to express themselves.
He defended a too strict moderation of the content, but concentrated the majority of his attacks against the supposed censorship of the voices of the right and extreme right.
But in an attempt to reassure his advertisers, after taking over Twitter, Elon Musk promised that the social network would not become “hell-like” and that he would give it a “content moderation council”.
Barely days after its takeover, the blue bird network is already subject to coordinated attacks by “trolls” dumping hateful content to test its moderation policy, according to a company official.
“Over the past 48 hours, we’ve seen a small number of accounts send a deluge of tweets containing profanity and other abusive language,” said Yoel Roth, the platform’s integrity chief, on Saturday.
“To give you an idea of the scale: more than 50,000 tweets mentioning a particular insult came from just 300 accounts,” he added, specifying that the vast majority were fake accounts.
Roth reiterated that ‘hate speech had no place’ on Twitter as its moderation policy had not ‘changed’ and that the company was taking steps to ‘stop any organized effort to make people believe otherwise’.