The Times article itself doesn’t deserve any rebuttal other than mockery. Musk may spend the majority of his days engaged in obsessive self-promotion, but his politics are materially no different from the politics of the Koch brothers or other billionaire political gadflies. Musk’s politics are “the government should do things that help me make money, and should not do things that might cost me money.” There ya go, national political press, you’ve cracked the code. Self-interest is the most common ideology in all the land, and Musk has from the beginning had a particular bee in his bonnet when it comes to government safety regulations that might protect workers but impact his own financial fortunes.
Musk has dabbled in COVID-19 denialism from the beginning of the pandemic, but the notion of prosecuting public health officials for doing their damn jobs even when pandemic deniers would rather they didn’t is, again, something scraped up from the deepest bowels of the fascist far-right. (It also follows another Twitter documents leak that appears to be intended solely as a condemnation of past Twitter executives for banning Donald Trump from the platform one day after Trump’s use of the site contributed to a violent attempted coup inside the U.S. Congress. Musk is now systemically releasing internal Twitter communications for the purposes of amplifying far-right theories of persecution.)
What does Musk think government health officials should be prosecuted for? He doesn’t say, aside from his usual QAnon-tinged shitposting, because he is a stupid and buffoonish clown:
But he does suggest that an upcoming Twitter document dump will focus on Twitter’s past efforts to remove pandemic disinformation and suspend those who engaged in it—yet another Musk effort premised exclusively on boosting far-right conspiracies by stoking outrage against the fact-checkers and safety experts the far right has demonized. This is not a minor, performative little bleat from Musk, but part of an ongoing effort to align Twitter with COVID-19 conspiracy theorists rather than against them.
One of Musk’s first orders of business was to reinstate some of the most notorious far-right conspiracy theorists in the country, including conspiracy theorists allied with a seditionist attempt to overthrow the United States government. His politics are not in doubt: He seeks to promote misinformation by the far-right while using his authority as Twitter’s owner to “expose” the supposed liberals inside Twitter who sought to keep the most dangerous misinformation off the platform.
The two brands of conspiracy theorists he has most favored, pandemic hoax promoters and election “fraud” conspiracy theorists, are both responsible for violence and deaths. Anti-vaccine conspiracies and the promotion of fake COVID-19 cures are thought to have cost the lives of at least tens of thousands of Americans, if not far more; election fraud conspiracies were the vehicle for promoting an attempted coup.
Musk’s focus on bringing back—and, with his tweets, promoting—such conspiracy theories now makes Twitter a far more dangerous platform. The movement of users away from Twitter and onto social media alternatives is still relatively slow-paced, as Musk’s not-quite-captive audience waits to see what happens next, but it needs to be emphasized again: With Musk’s latest actions, Twitter is becoming a far more dangerous platform.
If you are using Twitter and intend to keep doing so, here are some suggestions for keeping yourself, if not safe, considerably safer:
• Assume Twitter’s privacy policies are null and void. Federal regulators will, eventually, have something to say about that, but that doesn’t help you in the meantime. Don’t link your Twitter account to anything it doesn’t need to be linked to or give Twitter any information you wouldn’t want to be made public.
• Never use “direct messages.” EVER. It’s already been demonstrated that Musk is providing allies on the right with special access to Twitter’s internal tools. Every Twitter user, and especially the most prominent users, should at this point assume Musk can and may leak your private data in an attempt to prove a political or ideological point.
• Don’t click on emails or open links purporting to come from Twitter or its teams; phishing attempts are now rampant on the site and if you lose access to your account to a bad actor, Twitter doesn’t have enough live humans to respond to your pleas for intervention.
• Twitter is no longer a safe platform for international protests. Musk has repeatedly taken actions to support anti-democratic factions in the United States; he has repeatedly proven willing to leak private information in efforts to please his ideological allies. If you use Twitter to help organize pro-democracy or anti-government protests anywhere in the world, stop now. Delete what you can; move to Mastodon or another platform. Twitter is not safe for you.
• Never give Twitter money. Ever. Musk’s fantasies of turning Twitter into a PayPal-like financial platform merged with a free-for-all hoax generation device will end in disaster—at least for you, if Musk’s plan of linking your Twitter account to your credit cards or bank accounts comes to fruition. Do. Not. Do. That.
If you use Twitter only to view other people’s tweets, keep up on news, or communicate with friends, your main risks are an increased exposure to fraudulent hoaxes, newly invigorated troll accounts, and ever-lower tiers of mostly right-leaning advertisers. If you can handle that, fine. There are various means of consuming Twitter that do not expose you to its advertising, but if you’re thinking of boycotting Twitter as a means of reducing its advertising revenue, you don’t need to bother. Musk’s Twitter has absolutely no chance of becoming profitable through ad revenue. None. He’s much too deep in the hole for it to even matter anymore.
And if you’re worried about embedding tweets or otherwise sharing them? So far there are few reasons to believe that’s problematic. In fact, embedding tweets costs Elon Musk money; Twitter’s servers present those tweets without advertising, so it’s a net loss to the company every time it happens.
Many of us will continue to use the site as means of keeping up with the news, but as a communications platform for private activist organizing it is unsafe. Avoid using those features from here on in, and again: If you’re somebody “important,” you need to know that Elon Musk is proving himself very willing to expose your private information to his ideological allies.
Those “allies” are, in many cases people who want to imprison health officials or overthrow the United States government based on fraudulent lies peddled by far-right authoritarians. There’s really no possible question as to Musk’s motives here. He’s demonstrated, over and over, eagerness to promote far-right actors, far-right conspiracies, and even the backers of violent sedition. He is what he promotes.
Why did Democrats do so surprisingly well in the midterms? It turns out they ran really good campaigns, as strategist Josh Wolf tells us on this week’s episode of The Downballot. That means they defined their opponents aggressively, spent efficiently, and stayed the course despite endless second-guessing in the press. Wolf gives us an inside picture of how exactly these factors played out in the Arizona governor’s race, one of the most important Democratic wins of the year. He also shines a light on an unsexy but crucial aspect of every campaign: how to manage a multi-million budget for an enterprise designed to spend down to zero by Election Day.