Elon Musk may have already broken a key provision of the deal he made with Twitter. One day after Twitter disclosed the terms of its deal with Musk, the Tesla CEO is already raising questions about his willingness to adhere to a non-disparagement clause.
According to an SEC filing shared by Twitter on Tuesday, Musk 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.” In other words, Musk can tweet about the deal all he wants, but he can’t denigrate Twitter or its employees.
But once again Musk seems unwilling to moderate himself, and has done so at the expense of a top Twitter executive.
On Tuesday night, Musk replied to a tweet about an earlier Politico story that reported Twitter’s top policy exec, Vijaya Gadde, had cried during a meeting with staff discussing Musk’s buyout. The original tweet also noted Gadde’s role in Twitter’s handling of the Hunter Biden laptop story in 2020. (The company quickly reversed course after initially trying to limit the story, citing its policy on hacked materials.)
“Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate,” Musk responded. On Wednesday, Musk targeted Gadde again, tweeting a meme based on her appearance on a 2019 episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast.
Just to say, there are many defensible _nuanced_ perspectives on content moderation and, also, @vijaya is one of the most thoughtful, principled people I know.
— Ev (@ev) April 27, 2022
The tweets, which have prompted a wave of harassment directed at Gadde, have prompted two former Twitter CEOs to come to her defense. Twitter co-founder and former CEO EV Williams wrote that Gadde is “one of the most thoughtful, principled people I know.”
Former CEO Dick Costolo was more pointed. “You're making an executive at the company you just bought the target of harassment and threats,” he said. “Bullying is not leadership,” he wrote in a separate tweet. “I’m just saying Twitter needs to be politically neutral,” Musk responded.
Notably, neither Jack Dorsey — who recently enthusiastically endorsed Musk’s takeover —or current CEO Parag Agrawal has commented directly. Agrawl tweeted Wednesday that he was “proud of our people who continue to do the work with focus and urgency despite the noise.”
I took this job to change Twitter for the better, course correct where we need to, and strengthen the service. Proud of our people who continue to do the work with focus and urgency despite the noise.
— Parag Agrawal (@paraga) April 27, 2022
Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Regardless, this kind of “noise” from Musk is not likely to sit well with Twitter employees, many of whom are already apprehensive about the direction Musk will take the platform.
Musk has claimed that he wants Twitter to be "politically neutral," which in his estimation "effectively means upsetting the far right and the far left equally." Early reports looking at changes in follower counts for high-profile accounts suggest that far-right politicians are seeing a sharp uptick in followers.