Elon Musk Demands Retraction of Article Alleging Stolen Election Claims ‘Thrive Unchecked’ on Twitter

Elon Musk Demands Retraction of Article Alleging Stolen Election Claims ‘Thrive Unchecked’ on Twitter
Elon Musk, founder and chief engineer of SpaceX, speaks at the 2020 Satellite Conference and Exhibition in Washington on March 9, 2020. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Tom Ozimek

Elon Musk has objected to an article by The Associated Press alleging that “false claims of a stolen election thrive unchecked on Twitter” even though Musk promised that tweets making such claims would be “corrected,” with the Twitter chief calling on the media outlet to back up its assertion with data or retract the piece.

The article, published by AP on May 18, cites an interview earlier in the week on CNBC in which Musk pledged that users making false claims of stolen elections on Twitter “will be corrected, 100 percent.”

Musk was responding to a question by the interviewer about claims made by Twitter users that the 2020 election was “rigged” or “stolen,” and whether such claims would end up tagged with a community note or would face other actions.

“To be clear, I don’t think it was a stolen election,” Musk replied, before adding that he believes there was some election fraud in 2020.

“By the same token, if somebody is going to say that there is never any election fraud anywhere, this is obviously false. If 100 million people vote, the probability that the fraud is zero—is zero,” Musk added.

Musk went on to say that it’s important to strike a balance in discussions around election integrity by acknowledging that there’s going to be a non-zero amount of fraud without claiming that “the fraud was sufficient to change the outcome.”

The interviewer then pressed Musk whether “you are going to let people say that on Twitter,” referring to claims that the election was stolen.

“They will be corrected, 100 percent,” Musk said in the interview.

In its article, the Associated Press claimed that, since former President Donald Trump held a town hall on CNN in which he reiterated his claims that the election was rigged, many claims of a stolen election have proliferated on Twitter.

“Yet many such claims have thrived on Twitter in the week since former President Donald Trump spent much of a CNN town hall digging in on his lie that the 2020 election was ‘rigged’ against him,” the AP article reads. “Twitter posts that amplified those false claims have thousands of shares with no visible enforcement, a review of posts on the platform shows.”

The article then said that an analysis by media intelligence firm Zignal Labs carried out on behalf of AP had identified the 10 most widely shared tweets promoting a “rigged election” narrative following Trump’s appearance on CNN.

“While Twitter has a system in place for users to add context to misleading tweets, the 10 posts, which collectively amassed more than 43,000 retweets, had no such notes attached,” the article stated, though it did not provide specific evidence, such as the tweets in question.

Musk reacted critically to the piece, demanding that AP provide the source data in support of its key claims or pull the article.

“Either back up your claims @AP with actual source data or retract your story,” Musk wrote in a tweet.
AP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump Adamant About ‘Rigged’ 2020 Election

In his town hall appearance on CNN, Trump reiterated his view that the 2020 election was stolen.

The former president said that he performed “fantastically” in 2020, doing “far better” than in 2016 with 12 million more votes.

“When you look at that result and when you look at what happened during that election, unless you’re a very stupid person, you see what happens,” Trump said before adding that he believes the election was “rigged.”

“That was a rigged election, and it’s a shame that we had to go through it. It’s very bad for our country. All over the world, they looked at it, and they saw exactly what everyone else saw,” Trump said.

He pointed to the Twitter Files disclosures as an indication of apparent collusion between the FBI and Twitter to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story in the run-up to the election, which Trump said, “made a big difference.”

The seventh installment of the Musk-endorsed Twitter Files claimed that there was an “organized effort” on the part of federal law enforcement to target social media companies that reported on the explosive Hunter Biden laptop story, which was first published by the New York Post.

Hunter Biden Laptop Story

In the run-up to the 2020 election, the New York Post published a story about a laptop abandoned at a computer repair shop that purportedly belonged to Hunter Biden and contained emails suggesting that then-candidate Joe Biden had knowledge of, and was allegedly involved in, his son’s foreign business dealings.

The New York Post’s story titled “Smoking-gun Email Reveals How Hunter Biden Introduced Ukrainian Businessman to VP Dad” was published on Oct. 14, 2020.

Twitter first prevented sharing of the story for 24 hours before reversing the decision. However, the story did not circulate on the platform for weeks because of a policy requiring the original poster to delete and repost the original tweet.

Polling has indicated that if the public had been aware of the suppressed story ahead of the election, it may have cost then presidential candidate Joe Biden several percentage points of voters—possibly enough to thwart his bid for the White House.

“In Twitter Files #7, we present evidence pointing to an organized effort by representatives of the intelligence community (IC), aimed at senior executives at news and social media companies, to discredit leaked information about Hunter Biden before and after it was published,” wrote author Michael Shellenberger, who released screenshots on Dec. 19, 2022, that appeared to show message exchanges between top Twitter officials and the FBI in October 2020.

The FBI told The Epoch Times in an earlier emailed statement that it had only offered general warnings to Twitter about foreign election interference and never pushed for the platform to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story.

Former Twitter executives have conceded that they made a mistake by blocking the Hunter Biden laptop story but denied that they were pressured to suppress the story by law enforcement.

However, documents filed with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) show that the FBI warned Twitter explicitly of a “hack-and-leak operation involving Hunter Biden” ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Twitter’s former head of site integrity Yoel Roth made the remarks in a signed declaration (pdf) attached to a Dec. 21, 2020 letter to the FEC’s Office of Complaints Examination and Legal Administration on behalf of Twitter.

Roth said in the attached declaration that he was told by the FBI at a series of meetings ahead of the 2020 election that the agency warned of the threat of hacked materials being distributed on social media platforms.

“I was told in these meetings that the intelligence community expected that individuals associated with political campaigns would be subject to hacking attacks and that material obtained through those hacking attacks would likely be disseminated over social media platforms, including Twitter,” Roth stated in the declaration.

“I also learned in these meetings that there were rumors that a hack-and-leak operation would involve Hunter Biden,” Roth added.

Roth said that Twitter’s Site Integrity Team determined that the New York Post’s articles about the laptop violated the platform’s policies on hacked materials and Twitter took action to suppress the distribution of posts sharing the articles.

He later acknowledged that it was a mistake for Twitter to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story.

Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.
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