Photo illustration: Muhammed Selim Korkutata/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
It’s been just two days since Elon Musk officially bought Twitter. Already, the billionaire businessman is using the platform to spread misinformation to his 112 million followers — about the biggest U.S. news of the weekend.
Driving the news: Early on Sunday, Musk cited a widely-discredited website that implied the brutal attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, wasn’t carried out by an unhinged far-right blogger — but rather was linked to an anti-LGTBQ “theory” about a skirmish at a local bar.
- “There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye,” Musk said in response to a tweet from Hillary Clinton.
- Clinton tweeted a Los Angeles Times article about the suspect, David DePape, 42, who spread QAnon and other far-right conspiracies: “The Republican Party and its mouthpieces now regularly spread hate and deranged conspiracy theories. It is shocking, but not surprising, that violence is the result.”
- Later on Sunday, it appeared as though Musk had deleted the tweet.
Why it matters: Musk linked to an article from the Santa Monica Observer, a website known for years for publishing false stories.
- The site “is anything but trustworthy,” according to an executive at NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalists to rate news and information sites.
- The site has a trust score of 44.5 out of 100 points on NewsGuard’s rating scale for trustworthiness, due to repeatedly publishing numerous conspiracy theories and false claims about politics, the pandemic and more.
- The site gets a red-rating and a warning for readers that says: “Proceed with caution: This website fails to adhere to several basic journalistic standards.”
What to watch: Musk’s tweets have influence. The Observer’s website went down early Sunday morning shortly after the tweet was published, apparently due to an influx of traffic from Musk’s tweet.
- An error page read that the site’s web server, Cloudflare, was “returning an unknown error.”
The big picture: Musk has said he plans to roll back content moderation on the platform in favor of “free speech,” but has also tried to assure advertisers that “Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape.”
Editor’s note: This version updates the headline for precision and notes that Musk’s tweet has been removed.