Last Thursday night, after spending months trying to renege on the deal, Elon Musk became the official owner of Twitter. Almost immediately—after he reportedly fired a bunch of people—the richest man in the world got down to business: using the platform to spread fake news.
On Sunday, responding to a tweet from Hillary Clinton about the accused Paul Pelosi attacker David DePape shared QAnon and other “far-right, bigoted conspiracies” online, Musk wrote “there is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story.” Then he linked to an opinion piece that baselessly claimed the House Speaker’s husband was drunk at the time of last week’s attack and “in a dispute with a male prostitute.” The piece appeared in the Santa Monica Observer, which The Washington Post notes has been “described by fact-checkers as a low-credibility source favoring the extreme right.” (According to New York magazine, it’s also previously claimed that Clinton was dead and played by a body double during a 2016 debate with Donald Trump.) Not surprisingly, per the Post, the article had cited no sources, and the author said his evidence-free assertions were “IMHO,” i.e. “in my humble opinion.”
The right, of course—which Musk is apparently a part of—has a vested interest in insisting that the alleged Pelosi assailant was not inspired by the violent rhetoric it engages in on a daily basis and the conspiracy theories its own officials promote. The problem is that their narrative does not appear to be true—on Saturday, news outlets reported the suspect had posted about QAnon, and also questioned the Holocaust, climate change, and the 2020 election—and that the Santa Monica Observer story definitely doesn’t appear to be true. (On Sunday, CNN reported that, according to San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, Pelosi and DePape didn’t know each other.)
Musk immediately received major backlash for trafficking in dangerous misinformation. Yael Eisenstat, a vice president of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote: