Elon Musk, who’s sealed a $44 billion deal to become Twitter’s sole owner, is prohibited from posting tweets that “disparage” the social network or its employees.
But that didn’t stop Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and the world’s richest person, from criticizing Twitter’s 2020 decision to freeze the account of the New York Post, after the paper published stories about Hunter Biden based on documents from laptop he apparently abandoned in a Delaware computer-repair shop.
“Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate,” Musk tweeted Tuesday evening.
That was in reply to a post by Saagar Enjeti, a political commentator and co-host of podcast “Breaking Points,” which linked to a story by Politico describing how Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal, policy and trust, and safety — the exec who oversaw the company’s suspension of the New York Post — cried during a meeting with staffers discussing Musk’s takeover.
In October 2020, Twitter blocked the New York Post’s account for 16 days over the newspaper’s series of stories about Hunter Biden, in what became a flashpoint for Republicans charging Twitter with censorship of conservative viewpoints. The Post stories alleged that Joe Biden, who was elected president of the United States the following month, and his son Hunter engaged in corrupt business dealings in Ukraine and China.
Twitter initially said the Post stories ran afoul of its “hacked materials” policy, given that the Rupert Murdoch-owned paper said the source for its Biden exposés was info supplied by Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who allegedly obtained it from a MacBook Pro purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden. Twitter subsequently reversed its decision, saying that it had updated its hacked-materials policy and would not retroactively apply that to the New York Post. Other news outlets, including the New York Times, have since reported that the laptop did belong to Hunter Biden and the documents on it are authentic.
At the time, News Corp, the publisher of the New York Post, blasted Twitter’s suspension and insisted, “There is no evidence whatsoever that the documents [that formed the basis of the Biden articles] are not authentic and the arbitrary blocking of the Post was a significant moment during a critical time in this election season.”
Under the terms of Musk’s deal for Twitter, disclosed Tuesday, he is “permitted to issue Tweets about the Merger or the transactions contemplated hereby so long as such Tweets do not disparage the Company or any of its Representatives.”
To be sure, in October 2020, then-CEO Jack Dorsey acknowledged that the way Twitter blocked the New York Post’s article URL without context was “wrong” — although Dorsey didn’t weigh in on the proprietary of temporary suspending the @nypost account.
Musk’s buyout of Twitter has been approved by the social network’s board. The deal’s close is pending shareholder and regulatory approval, which analysts expect will not present any obstacles. The deal terms include a $1 billion breakup fee, payable by Musk or Twitter to the other party if either side bails on the agreement, per the SEC filing.
Musk has championed the idea that he will protect “free speech” on Twitter — and that has prompted critics to raise red flags about the prospect that under his ownership, the social network will allow misinformation that is currently restricted on the platform.
Musk tried to clarify his stance in a tweet Tuesday. “By ‘free speech,’ I simply mean that which matches the law,” the billionaire posted. “I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law. If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect. Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.”
On Tuesday night, Musk also pointed out on Twitter that Donald Trump’s Truth Social app — launched as a rival to Twitter, after the former president was permanently banned in the wake of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack — was the No. 1 trending app on Apple’s App Store, ahead of Twitter.
Truth Social is currently beating Twitter & TikTok on the Apple Store pic.twitter.com/RxawVUAYKH
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 27, 2022