Twitter Flags Mediaite Post Critical of Elon Musk as ‘Potentially Spammy’

Elon Musk and Twitter

CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images

Twitter deemed a Mediaite article that is critical of the company’s new owner Elon Musk as “potentially spammy” on Friday night, and diverted users to a warning page when they click the post.

The warning had been removed as of Saturday morning after multiple media outlets – including this one – reported on it.

Musk has cast himself as a fierce free speech advocate seeking to change the censorious ways of the platform.

The post, which is marked “Opinion” and was initially only accessible to users who read through a daunting message and clicked, “Ignore this warning and continue,” is titled “What Elon Musk Is Doing Right at Twitter.”

The entirety of the post’s text reads, “Nothing.”

Twitter users who clicked on the article in their timelines were taken to a page telling them the link violates the company’s URL policy and that it may be “unsafe.”

“The link you are trying to access has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially spammy or unsafe, in accordance with Twitter’s URL Policy,” the message read. “This link could fall into any of the below categories…”

The message listed the following categories, none of which the blocked post appears to violate:

– malicious links that could steal personal information or harm electronic devices

– spammy links that mislead people or disrupt their experience

– violent or misleading content that could lead to real-world harm

– certain categories of content that, if posted directly on Twitter, are a violation of the Twitter Rules.

It is unclear if Twitter’s algorithm determined the piece to be too terse, and therefore unfit for users of the microblogging site who sometimes communicate solely via memes and emojis. Likewise, it is not clear if the link was actively censored.

dumber twitter message

Twitter and Musk did not respond to inquiries asking which, if any, policies the content may have violated.

Musk signed an acquisition deal to buy Twitter in April and promised to make the platform a haven for “free speech.”

“I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means,” Musk tweeted shortly after reaching an agreement to purchase the company.

Soon after, the Tesla CEO tried to wriggle out of the agreement by suggesting the number of spam bots on Twitter is much higher than disclosed. Musk had previously tweeted he would “defeat the spam bots or die trying!”

Twitter successfully sued Musk, who was ordered by a judge to complete the deal he signed or else face a trial. In late October, he finally bought the company for $44 billion. Though he has the highest net worth of anyone in the world, he needed billions in financing to buy the company because much of his wealth is held in shares of Tesla.

The acquisition has been hailed by many conservatives who believe Twitter has been overly censorious, particularly of people with right-wing political beliefs. They have praised Musk as a force for free expression online.

But Musk’s record on “free speech” is mixed. In 2018, the billionaire phoned the employer of a portfolio manager named Lawrence Fossi, a self-described conservative, who at the time was writing articles critical of Tesla that questioned the company’s financial statements. According to Fossi, a colleague who spoke with Musk told him:

Elon Musk says that you’re a very bad person and you’re writing bad things about him. He’s going to have to sue you and he’s going to have to drag our boss into it.

Not wanting to cause drama for his boss, Fossi agreed to stop writing and tweeting. He has since resumed his public criticisms after leaving his former employer.

Musk has also lashed out against employees whose activities he disfavors.

When a Tesla employee tried to unionize the automaker’s workforce at company’s factory in Fremont, California in 2017, Tesla fired him. Later, the National Labor Relations Board ruled his termination illegal and ordered Tesla to reinstate him and furnish back pay.

Musk has overseen a tumultuous first two weeks at the company. After laying off thousands of employees, the company rolled out a new “verification” system whereby any user can pay $7.99 a month and receive a blue checkmark without proving their identity. Predictably, scores of fake accounts have impersonated individuals and organizations, causing “unnecessary chaos” as one reporter put it.

He has since decreed such accounts must have the word “parody” in both the user’s bio and name.

This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Twitter has removed the warning label from the aforementioned Mediaite link.

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Mike is a Mediaite senior editor who covers the news in primetime.