Elon Musk is asking Twitter users to vote on whether he should remain in charge of the social media platform after admitting he made a mistake in implementing new speech restrictions that prohibited mentions of rival social media platforms on Sunday.
Twitter announced yet another drastic policy change, stating that users will no longer be able to link to Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, and other platforms that the company has labelled as “prohibited.”
However, the move drew so much immediate criticism, including from previous supporters of Twitter’s new billionaire owner, that Musk promised not to make any more major policy changes without first conducting an online user survey.
“Please accept my apologies. “Won’t happen again,” Musk tweeted, before launching a new 12-hour poll asking whether he should step down as Twitter CEO. “I will follow the outcome of this poll.”
Musk’s action to block competitors was his latest attempt to crack down on certain speech after he shut down a Twitter account tracking his private jet’s flights last week.
Mainstream websites such as Facebook and Instagram were banned, as were upstart competitors Mastodon, Tribel, Nostr, Post, and former President Donald Trump’s Truth Social. Twitter provided no explanation for why those seven websites were included on the blacklist but not others such as Parler, TikTok, or LinkedIn.
Twitter had said it would at least temporarily suspend accounts that include the banned websites in their profile — a practise so widespread that enforcing the restrictions on Twitter’s millions of users worldwide would have been difficult. Not only links, but also attempts to circumvent the ban by typing “instagram dot com” could have resulted in a suspension, according to the company.
Paul Graham, a prominent venture capitalist who has previously praised Musk, told his 1.5 million Twitter followers on Sunday that this was the “last straw” and to find him on Mastodon. His Twitter account was promptly suspended and quickly restored after Musk promised to reverse the policy that had been implemented just hours before.
Musk stated that Twitter will continue to suspend some accounts in accordance with the policy, but “only when that account’s (asterisk)primary(asterisk) purpose is competitor promotion.”
Twitter previously blocked links to Mastodon after its main Twitter account mentioned the @ElonJet controversy last week. Mastodon has grown rapidly in recent weeks as an alternative for Twitter users dissatisfied with Musk’s overhaul of the company since he bought it for $44 billion in late October and began restoring accounts that violated the previous Twitter leadership’s rules against hateful behaviour and other harms.
Musk banned the @ElonJet account permanently on Wednesday, then changed Twitter’s rules to make it illegal to share another person’s current location without their consent. He then went after journalists who were writing about the jet-tracking account, which is still available on other social media platforms, claiming that they were broadcasting “basically assassination coordinates.”
He used this to justify Twitter’s decision last week to suspend the accounts of numerous journalists who cover the social media platform and Musk, including reporters from The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Voice of America, and others. Following Musk’s online poll, many of those accounts were restored.
The Washington Post’s Taylor Lorenz became the latest journalist to be temporarily barred over the weekend. She claimed she was suspended after tagging Musk and requesting an interview on Twitter.
The executive editor of The Washington Post, Sally Buzbee, called it a “arbitrary suspension of another Post journalist” that undermined Musk’s promise to run Twitter as a platform dedicated to free speech.
“Once again, the suspension came with no warning, process, or explanation — this time as our reporter sought comment from Musk for a story,” Buzbee said. Lorenz’s account had been restored by midday Sunday, as had the tweet she thought had triggered her suspension.
Musk’s promise to let Twitter users decide his future role through an unscientific online survey appeared to come out of nowhere on Sunday, despite the fact that he had previously promised in November that a reorganisation would take place soon.
Musk was questioned in court on Nov. 16 about how he divides his time between Tesla and his other businesses, which include SpaceX and Twitter. Musk was called to testify in Delaware’s Court of Chancery in response to a shareholder’s challenge to Musk’s potentially $55 billion compensation package as CEO of Tesla.
Musk stated that he never intended to be CEO of Tesla and that he does not want to be CEO of any other company, preferring to see himself as an engineer instead. Musk also stated that he expects Twitter’s organisational restructuring to be completed within the next week or so. It has been over a month since he said that.
Public chit-chat with Twitter followers Musk was pessimistic about the prospects for a new CEO on Sunday, saying that person “must like pain a lot” to lead a company that “has been on the fast track to bankruptcy.”
“No one wants the job of keeping Twitter alive. “There is no successor,” Musk wrote on Twitter.