BUSINESS + ECONOMY

Elon Musk is conspicuously quiet after Twitter users vote for him to step down amid chaotic policy changes

Dec 20, 2022, 6:00 AM
FILE - A sign at Twitter headquarters is shown in San Francisco, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. Twitter ha...
FILE - A sign at Twitter headquarters is shown in San Francisco, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. Twitter has suspended an account that used publicly available flight data to track Elon Musk's private jet, despite a pledge by the social media platform's new owner to keep it up because of his free speech principles. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

 (CNN) — Is Elon Musk resigning as “chief Twit” or not?

That’s the question remaining to be answered this Monday evening, more than 12 hours after an unscientific poll posted by the Twitter CEO resulted in 57.5% of participants voting that he should step down as head of the beleaguered social media company.

The move came after mounting criticism of his chaotic leadership at Twitter, including recent decisions to suspend journalists and introduce (and then delete) a controversial policy banning the practice of linking out to rival platforms; laying off half of the company’s staff; firing others who disagreed with him; and welcoming back onto the platform previously banned figures who trafficked in misinformation, conspiracy theories, and hate speech.

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. Sign up for the daily digest chronicling the evolving media landscape here.

Given Musk’s propensity for tweeting, and his rapid decisions after previous polls, many expected he would have addressed the elephant in the room by now. But he has not. In fact, Musk spent most of Monday conspicuously quiet, refraining from tweeting for a remarkable 18-hour period.

While Musk fired off some tweets Monday evening, posting statistics on Twitter usage during the epic World Cup final and retweeting posts from his Tesla and SpaceX companies, it remains unclear if he will actually step down from his post at Twitter after vowing to “abide” by the results of the poll. By his own admission, there isn’t someone readily available to run the perilous platform. In one Sunday night tweet, Musk wrote, “No one wants the job who can actually keep Twitter alive. There is no successor.”

Some Tesla investors, who have grown increasingly vocal, are hoping there is someone else who can take the reins at the social network. Musk last month said he would “find somebody else to run Twitter” and that he expected to “reduce” his time there. And while there are a host of names being floated, CNBC reported last week that Tesla shares have slid 28% since Musk took over Twitter.

The electric automaker bore the brunt of more bad news related to Musk’s Twitter obsession on Monday. Oppenheimer & Co. downgraded Tesla’s rating, with analyst Colin Rusch writing, “We believe Mr. Musk is increasingly isolated as the steward of Twitter’s finances with his user management on the platform. We see potential for a negative feedback loop from departure of Twitter advertisers and users.”

Rusch added that Musk’s behavior over the past few months as “chief Twit” has created “brand public backlash” that could tarnish Tesla’s brand image — particularly with key consumer groups.

“We believe banning journalists without consistent defensible standards or clear communication in an environment where many people believe free speech is at risk is too much for a majority of consumers to continue supporting Mr. Musk/TSLA, particularly people ideologically aligned with climate change mitigation,” Rusch wrote.

And while Musk now finds himself in the uncomfortable position of having to hand over daily control of the company he just purchased to the tune of $44 billion, it could please some of his supporters who wish he would get back to work at Tesla and knock off the distractions.

As the saying goes, Vox populi, Vox dei.

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Elon Musk is conspicuously quiet after Twitter users vote for him to step down amid chaotic policy changes