Elon Musk asked Twitter users if he should step down as CEO. They voted yes

More than half of 17.5 million users who responded to a Twitter poll that asked whether billionaire Elon Musk should step down as head of the social media platform voted Yes when the poll closed on Monday.

There was no immediate announcement from Twitter, or Musk, about whether that would happen, though he said that he would abide by the results. The results of the unscientific online survey, which lasted 12 hours, showed that 57.5 per cent of those who voted wanted him to leave.

Musk’s promise to let users decide his future role at Twitter appeared to come out of nowhere Sunday, though he had also promised in November that a reorganization was happening soon. Musk also acknowledged on Sunday that he made a mistake in launching new speech restrictions that banned mentions of rival social media websites.

In public banter with Twitter followers Sunday, Musk expressed pessimism about the prospects for a new CEO, saying that person “must like pain a lot” to run a company that “has been in the fast lane to bankruptcy.”

“No one wants the job who can actually keep Twitter alive. There is no successor,” Musk tweeted.

Blocking links to other platforms

In yet another significant policy change, Twitter had announced that users will no longer be able to link to Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon and other platforms the company described as “prohibited.”

But that decision generated so much immediate criticism, including from past defenders of Twitter’s new billionaire owner, that Musk promised not to make any more major policy changes without an online survey of users.

The action to block competitors was Musk’s latest attempt to crack down on certain speech after he shut down a Twitter account last week that was tracking the flights of his private jet.

The banned platforms included mainstream websites such as Facebook and Instagram, and upstart rivals Mastodon, Tribel, Nostr, Post and former president Donald Trump’s Truth Social. Twitter gave no explanation for why the blacklist included those seven websites but not others such as Onlyfans, Weibo, TikTok or LinkedIn, as well as platforms favoured by conservatives such as Gab, Gettr and Parler.

Elon Musk, centre, was seen Sunday at the FIFA World Cup final in Lusail City, Qatar, seated next to former White House adviser Jared Kushner, left. (Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Twitter had said it would at least temporarily suspend accounts that include the banned websites in their profile — a practice so widespread it would have been difficult to enforce the restrictions on Twitter’s millions of users around the world. Not only links but attempts to bypass the ban by spelling out “instagram dot com” could have led to a suspension, the company said.

A test case was the prominent venture capitalist Paul Graham, who in the past has praised Musk but on Sunday told his 1.5 million Twitter followers that this was the “last straw” and to find him on Mastodon. His Twitter account was promptly suspended, and soon after restored as Musk promised to reverse the policy implemented just hours earlier.

Musk said Twitter will still suspend some accounts according to the policy but “only when that account’s *primary* purpose is promotion of competitors.”

Mastodon has grown rapidly in recent weeks as an alternative for Twitter users who are unhappy with Musk’s overhaul of Twitter since he bought the company for $44 billion US in late October and began restoring accounts that ran afoul of the previous Twitter leadership’s rules against hateful conduct and other harms.

Week of new, contentious edicts

Musk last week also took aim at journalists who were writing about the jet-tracking account, which can still be found on other social media sites, alleging that they were broadcasting “basically assassination co-ordinates.”

He used that to justify Twitter’s moves last week to suspend the accounts of numerous journalists who cover the social media platform and Musk, among them reporters working for The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Voice of America and other publications. Many of those accounts were restored following an online poll by Musk.

Front Burner22:24Elon Musk’s Twitter culture war

Then, over the weekend, The Washington Post’s Taylor Lorenz became the latest journalist to be temporarily banned. She said she was suspended after posting a message on Twitter tagging Musk and requesting an interview.

Sally Buzbee, The Washington Post’s executive editor, called it an “arbitrary suspension of another Post journalist” that further undermined Musk’s promise to run Twitter as a platform dedicated to free speech.

Musk, 51, was questioned in court on Nov. 16 about how he splits his time among Tesla and his other companies, including SpaceX and Twitter. Musk had to testify in Delaware’s Court of Chancery over a shareholder’s challenge to Musk’s potentially $55 billion compensation plan as CEO of the electric car company.

Musk said he never intended to be CEO of Tesla, and that he didn’t want to be chief executive of any other companies either, preferring to see himself as an engineer instead. 

Tesla shares have already lost nearly 60 per cent of their value this year, as, like other carmakers, it battles supply chain issues and increasing competition in the EV space.

Shares were up 4.8 per cent in premarket trading after the Twitter results became final.

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