Elon Musk Previews What He’ll Do With Twitter: Serve Up His Employees for the Far Right’s Racist Abuse

elon-musk-targeting.jpg Germany: Opening of Tesla factory in Gruenheide - Credit: ddp images/Sipa USA/AP
elon-musk-targeting.jpg Germany: Opening of Tesla factory in Gruenheide - Credit: ddp images/Sipa USA/AP

Two of Twitter’s top executives are receiving harassment and abuse from far-right trolls as a result of having been singled out by new Twitter owner Elon Musk.

Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s legal, policy, and trust leader, has become the subject of invective on Twitter and on the encrypted messaging platform Telegram, following public criticism from Musk on the very platform he has just acquired for a reported $44 billion.

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Gadde was reported by Politico earlier this week to have broken down in tears in a meeting with her staff discussing the billionaire’s reported $44 billion acquisition of Twitter. The story was widely picked up by right-wing news outlets, most of which have been mocking those on the left who have criticized Musk’s acquisition of Twitter and voiced concerns about the richest man in the world having total control over a major media platform.

By contrast, many of those on the right, who have railed against Twitter enforcing its policy guidelines against hate speech and misinformation, have hailed Musk’s acquisition as a victory for “free speech.” Musk, who did not respond to a request for comment, has publicly criticized Twitter for what he views as its censorship of those who repeatedly violate the platform’s rules.

The headline for the story was tweeted by right-wing YouTuber and podcaster Saagar Enjeti, who wrote on Twitter that “Vijaya Gadde, the top censorship advocate at Twitter who famously gaslit the world on Joe Rogan’s podcast and censored the Hunter Biden laptop story, is very upset about the @elonmusk takeover.” Enjeti was referencing Twitter’s decision to temporarily block a link to a highly contentious New York Post story about the alleged contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, on the grounds that it violated the platform’s policy about sharing hacked materials.

In a reply to Enjeti’s tweet, Musk repeated the criticism of Gadde — ostensibly, soon to be one of his new employees — to his 86 million followers, stating, “Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate.” As a consequence, Gadde has been subject to intense racist and misogynistic invective on Twitter and platforms like Telegram.

Musk further targeted Gadde in a follow-up tweet on Wednesday, posting a meme referencing Gadde’s 2019 appearance on the podcast the Joe Rogan Experience, in which right-wing provocateur Tim Pool grilled Gadde over what he viewed as Twitter’s left-leaning bias in banning conservatives like Alex Jones from the platform. In the episode, Gadde denied having a bias toward conservatives, responding that while Twitter promotes free speech, it does enforce its anti harassment guidelines without trying to “police ideology.” (Studies have refuted that Twitter has a left-wing bias; and research from last year even indicated that Twitter’s algorithm amplifies more content from right-wing politicians and sources than it does left-wing sources.)

Gadde is not the only Twitter employee who has come in Musk’s crosshairs since he purchased the platform. Mike Cernovich, the far-right influencer who has famously peddled the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, posted yesterday about Twitter Deputy General Counsel Jim Baker, alleging that he had “facilitated fraud” in his previous role as counsel to the FBI. “Sounds pretty bad,” Musk replied. Baker has not tweeted on his account since last November, yet his tweets are currently getting spammed with replies from far-right trolls, accusing him of being a criminal.

Bullying is not leadership,” tweeted former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo.

“What are talking about? I’m just saying Twitter needs to be politically neutral,” Musk shot back.

Perhaps. But Musk’s engagement with conspiracy theorists such as Cernovich on the platform is not exactly unusual. Yet his online activity after buying Twitter certainly does little to dissuade his critics’ concerns about him removing what few safeguards the platform currently has in place to protect women and people of color from rampant abuse. Musk’s online activity is also particularly salient given that, according to Bloomberg, he is subject to a non-disparagement agreement barring him from publicly criticizing the company or its leadership. Early Wednesday morning, he also tweeted that the Trump-founded, right-wing social media platform Truth Social was beating TikTok and Twitter in the charts on the Apple store.

Wed., April 27, 2022, 9:54 pm. This story has been updated.

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