Twitter Is Now Elon Musk’s Personal Harassment Engine

Musk is a known troll and chaos agent who understands the power of Twitter as a medium. Now we’re seeing the full extent of just how much damage he is willing and able to do.
Image courtesy of @DonkeyHotey.

Elon Musk paid $44 billion and put himself in debt to some super shady actors, all so that he could make himself the main character on Twitter every day. Musk isn’t even talented enough to do it for free like Donald Trump did, so he’s forced to exploit Twitter’s resources in service of his ego. Musk coined his latest stunt, #TheTwitterFiles, which he’s been releasing over the past week with the help of reactionary propagandists Bari Weiss, Matt Taibbi, and Michael Shellenberger.

#TheTwitterFiles, for those of you who’ve been lucky enough to avoid it, is the release of select screenshots that supposedly show the inner workings of Twitter, specifically the decision-making process around enforcing Twitter’s policies. No actual news broke from these releases, but that hasn’t stopped Elon fanboys, MAGA, and QAnon from declaring that Elon has uncovered the greatest conspiracy of all time. One that shows Twitter’s former leadership silenced conservatives, rigged an election, and committed treason!

Musk’s fanboys are primed to take action on his behalf. Thanks to a tweet of mine that went viral during the second Twitter Files release (and a quote tweet from Glenn Greenwald), my Twitter mentions have been flooded with crap from these guys for most of the week. At this point, I’m pretty used to troll attacks, but something about their intensity really struck me. I engaged with some of them via my mentions, DM’s, and those who took the time to find my email address just to get a sense of what was happening. It was eye-opening.

These folks are hopped up on a conspiracy high. Their energy is QAnon/pizzagate, meets election denial, meets anti-vaxxers with Twitter’s new owner pouring gasoline on the fire. And they’re loving it. They truly believe Twitter’s former leadership committed thousands of felonies, rigged an election, were in cahoots with the FBI, plus all the usual stuff about everyone being a pedophile.

Speaking of everyone being a pedophile, yesterday Musk went after Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former Head of Trust and Safety personally, with multiple tweets suggesting that Roth was a pedophile. Roth is openly Gay and Jewish, and Musk’s smears of him fit perfectly into the Right’s current narrative about the LBBTQ+ community as well as increased antisemitism.

Roth, who worked with Musk for a few weeks only to leave and become a fierce critic, had warned about the danger of what Musk was doing to Twitter’s former employees just over a week ago, saying: “publicly posting the names and identities of front-line employees involved in content moderation puts them in harm’s way and is a fundamentally unacceptable thing to do.”

Musk’s attacks immediately put Roth in harm’s way. Last night on, the current iteration of /r/the_donald, the top-rated commenton a thread about #TheTwitterFiles was, “we need to see people hang.” Scrolling through the site, I found multiple violent threats targeting Roth specifically.

People who incite violence against vulnerable people and groups know exactly what they’re doing. The harm is a feature, not a bug. Any resulting violence is a feature, not a bug. Musk and those who have collaborated with him on #TheTwitterFiles deliberately put Twitter’s former leadership and staff in danger.

As I wrote in October, Musk is a known troll and chaos agent who understands the power of Twitter as a medium. Which is what made the notion of him owning it so frightening. Now we’re seeing the full extent of just how much damage Musk is willing and able to do. Twitter is now Elon Musk’s personal harassment engine.

And until we find ways to create a cost and hold Musk accountable, he’ll keep going.

This is an excerpt from the newsletter Ctrl Alt-Right DeleteIt was republished with the author’s permission. Subscribe HERE.

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Melissa Ryan

Melissa Ryan Ctrl is the author of Alt-Right Delete, a newsletter devoted to covering the rise of far-right extremism, white nationalism disinformation, and online toxicity, delivered on a weekly basis to more than 16,000 subscribers. Her writing has appeared in publications such as The Progressive, Buzzfeed News, Refinery29, NowThis, and Media Matters.

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