Elon Musk tweeted a link to an unfounded rumour about the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband – just days after he bought the platform sparking fears it would no longer seek to limit misinformation and hate speech.
The tweet, which he later deleted, linked to an article by the Santa Monica Observer, an outlet that previously said Hillary Clinton died on 11 September and was replaced with a body double.
In this case, the article recycled a baseless claim that the personal life of Paul Pelosi, the House Speaker’s husband, somehow played a role in an intruder’s attack in the couple’s San Francisco home.
Musk was replying to a tweet by Mrs Clinton.
She had criticised Republicans for generally spreading “hate and deranged conspiracy theories” and said: “It is shocking, but not surprising, that violence is the result.”
In response, Musk posted a link to the fringe website, and added: “There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye.”
Police in San Francisco have said the suspect in last week’s attack, identified as David DePape, 42, broke into the Pelosi family’s Pacific Heights home early on Friday and confronted Mr Pelosi, demanding to know, “Where is Nancy?”
The two men struggled over a hammer before officers responding to a 911 call to the home saw DePape strike Mr Pelosi at least once, police said.
DePape was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, elder abuse and burglary. Prosecutors plan to file charges on Monday and expect his arraignment on Tuesday.
Police say the attack was “intentional” and not random but have not stated publicly what they consider to be the motive.
The exchange between Musk and Mrs Clinton came a day after Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, said the company’s policies toward “slurs” and “hateful conduct” were still in place.
Shortly after Musk took control of Twitter, some accounts on the platform began tweeting messages ranging from racist slurs to political misinformation, such as “Trump won”, to see what will be tolerated.
Mr Musk said on Friday that he would form a “content moderation council” and promised advertisers the site would not devolve into a “free for all hellscape”.
This is despite describing himself as a “free speech absolutist”.
However, at least one major advertiser, General Motors, said it will suspend advertising on Twitter while it monitors the direction of the platform under Musk.
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