Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, is facing criticism after he posted and later deleted a link on the platform to an unfounded rumor about the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s husband.
Musk had been responding Sunday to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who condemned the assault on Paul Pelosi and accused the “Republican Party and its mouthpieces” of regularly spreading “hate and deranged conspiracy theories.”
Clinton linked her post to an LA Times piece about how the suspect, David DePape, 42, promoted far-right conspiracy theories online.
“It is shocking, but not surprising, that violence is the result. As citizens, we must hold them accountable for their words and the actions that follow,” Clinton wrote.
Musk replied, “There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye.”
He included a link to an opinion piece by the fringe site Santa Monica Observer, which, without citing evidence, ran the headline, “The Awful Truth: Paul Pelosi Was Drunk Again, And In a Dispute With a Male Prostitute Early Friday Morning.”
The Santa Monica Observer has previously claimed that Clinton died on Sept. 11 and was replaced with a body double.
In response to his tweet Sunday, Yael Eisenstat, a vice president of the Anti Defamation League, expressed doubts about his pledge to limit misinformation.
“When the world’s richest man/owner of this very site himself traffics in conspiracy theories days after claiming to advertisers that he’s going to be a responsible leader, all I can say is: I’m not overreacting by expressing my concerns,” wrote Eisenstat, a former Facebook executive.
“Actions always speak louder than words,” she added.
Dan Moynihan, a public policy professor at Georgetown University, expressed concerns that Musk will use his new role to “amplify conspiracy theories that are destroying American democracy.”
“A big problem in contemporary American politics is that one party has become obsessed with conspiracy theories, encouraging radical responses including anti-democratic actions and violence. Musk will just make the problem worse,” he wrote on Twitter.
Musk’s now-deleted post came a day after Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, tweeted that the company’s policies toward “slurs” and “hateful conduct” were still in place.
“Bottom line up front: Twitter’s policies haven’t changed. Hateful conduct has no place here,” Roth wrote.
On Friday, Musk said he would form a “content moderation council” for his platform and promised advertisers that the site would not devolve into a “free for all hellscape.”
Police say DePape hit Paul Pelosi at least once with a hammer at the couple’s San Francisco home, where he shouted, “Where is Nancy?”
The 82-year-old underwent surgery for a fractured skull and is expected to make a full recovery.
The suspect was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, elder abuse and burglary and is expected to be charged by prosecutors on Monday.
With Post wires
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