Elon Musk is reportedly looking for his replacement as CEO at Twitter. According to CNBC, Musk was already searching for the next head of the social network before he sent out a poll on Sunday asking his 122 million followers if he should step down from the role.
Some 57% of his 17.5 million followers responded saying that he should abandon the post rather than stay on as Twitter's chief executive. Musk has abided by the results of his polls in the past.
Musk’s reign at Twitter has been marked by what critics describe as chaos, fueled by the brash executive's seemingly rash decisions that have disrupted the social networking platform.
Musk purchased Twitter in October for $44 billion. The Tesla (TSLA) CEO initially entered an agreement to buy the social media platform in April, then attempted to back out of the deal as the stock market turned sour. The about-face drew a lawsuit from Twitter that sought to force him to make good on the deal.
For his part, Musk countersued, arguing that he should be freed from the agreement because Twitter’s leadership refused to turn over documentation backing up the number of bots on the service. Musk agreed to buy the site just days before the start of a fast-tracked trial set to determine the fate of the dispute.
At the time, Musk made it clear that he had no intention of staying on as CEO for the long term.
Prior to buying the company, Musk regularly stated that he would turn Twitter into a free speech-first platform and referred to himself as a free speech absolutist. But Musk's stance spooked advertisers who feared tweets containing hate speech and disinformation would end up appearing next to their ads.
Major advertisers like GM (GM), Ford (F), Novartis AG (NVS), Oreo maker Mondelez (MDLZ), and United Airlines (UAL) pulled their ads from the social network. Twitter generates the vast majority of its revenue by selling ads.
To offset Twitter’s reliance on ad sales, Musk attempted to launch a revamped version of Twitter Blue, the company’s paid subscription service, adding an option for Twitter users to buy a blue checkmark for $8 per month. For years, a blue checkmark has indicated that Twitter has vetted an account as authentic.
But trolls quickly began buying up the checkmarks, masquerading as government figures, including former-President Trump, athletes like Lebron James, and brands like Lockheed Martin. In one tweet, a person pretending to run the Eli Lilly Twitter account said that the company had decided to make insulin free, sending shares of the company’s stock lower.
To assuage advertisers’ concerns about speech on the platform, Musk said that he would defer content moderation decisions until Twitter launches a content moderation council. But rather than wait, Musk announced blanket amnesty for users who were previously suspended from the social network for violating Twitter’s terms of service.
More recently, Musk suspended the account @ElonJet, which used public information to track the location of Musk’s private jet, saying that it publicized his real-time location. But the Twitter account appears to be limited to only showing the location of Musk’s jet, not him.
Musk also suspended the accounts of several technology journalists who reported on the @ElonJet controversy saying that they were also “doxxing” him, or revealing information about his whereabouts. After running a poll on Twitter asking if he should reinstate the journalists, Musk accepted the recommendation of respondents and reversed many of the suspensions.
Some legal minds are questioning whether Musk's decisions on users and their posts are opening up Twitter to broader legal risks. Twitter, like other social media platforms and internet sites that carry third party content, is protected from legal responsibility for content that its users post. Publishers, on the other hand, are not.
"Twitter should be easy to use, but no more relentless free advertising of competitors," Musk wrote in a Tweet on December 18 after Twitter Support said the platform would remove accounts created solely for the purpose of promoting other social platforms. "No traditional publisher allows this and neither will Twitter."
Tesla shareholders are not happy about Musk’s time as Twitter CEO. Shares of the electric automaker were down 58% year-to-date as of December 19, and Tesla stock popped when it became clear that Twitter users were voting for Musk to give up the role as Twitter's chief executive. Oppenheimer analyst Colin Rusch and others downgraded Tesla’s stock, saying that Musk’s moves at the social network were hurting consumers’ perception of the EV giant.
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Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow Alexis on Twitter @alexiskweed.
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