On Sunday, Twitter’s new owner and CEO Elon Musk posted an informal poll of users of the social media platform asking if he should step down as head of the company. By 2:50 a.m. ET 14.5 million votes had been cast, with the majority of respondents (57%) calling for the billionaire to remain in his post.
Musk claimed he will abide by the results of the poll, which is due to close early Monday morning, but it is unclear whether or not he will actually do so.
In court in November, Musk said, “I expect to reduce my time at Twitter and find somebody else to run Twitter over time.” However, on Sunday, he wrote in a tweet that there is no possible successor for him at the social media company.
“The question is not finding a CEO, the question is finding a CEO who can keep Twitter alive,” he wrote.
Twitter polls are straw polls, meaning they are informal and not comparable to professional public opinion research. Malicious bots or inauthentic accounts may also be able to register a response to a Twitter poll.
Musk’s Sunday poll followed online backlash after the “Chief Twit” (as he has called himself) made sudden changes to policies impacting users of Twitter in the last week.
For example, the company introduced a new social media platform promotion policy on Sunday, which prohibited users from sharing links to some of their other social media accounts. Longtime Musk friends and proponents, including Y Combinator founder Paul Graham, expressed their dismay at the policy causing Musk to later apologize and roll it back.
Days earlier, Twitter made changes to its policy on “doxxing,” which the company now defines as “sharing someone’s private information online without their permission.” The new policy prohibits users from sharing other people’s live location information, home addresses, contact information or physical location information but has left many confused over what information crosses Twitter’s line.
Musk’s policy changes were used as a justification to suspend the Twitter accounts of a number of U.S.-based journalists, commentators and others who were critical of the CEO or his companies in the past. Some of the accounts were fully or partially restored a few days later, but not all.
The suspensions marked the latest chapter of Musk’s rocky takeover at Twitter. He led the acquisition of the company for around $44 billion in October, and his leadership has resulted in massive staff cuts, a spike in racist hate speech, advertisers fleeing or slashing their spending on the platform, as well as the reinstatement of previously banned accounts.
The billionaire’s management at Twitter is bleeding into, and raising concerns about, his other ventures.
For example, Musk has sold billions of dollars worth of Tesla shares this year to finance the Twitter takeover. He has also pulled in talent from both Tesla and SpaceX, including executives, engineers and attorneys, to assist him at Twitter.
Earlier this month, NASA administrator Bill Nelson asked SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell whether Musk’s “distraction” at Twitter might affect SpaceX’s work with the space agency, NBC News reported. Nelson said she reassured him it would not.
But Musk’s behavior at Twitter is having a negative impact on his car company’s public image and stock price. Shares in Tesla had dropped about 60% year-to-date as of Sunday night. It comes amid a broad decline in growth stocks which has seen the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fall over 30% year-to-date.
Tesla’s largest retail shareholder, Leo Koguan, wrote in a tweet on Dec. 14, that “Elon abandoned Tesla and Tesla has no working CEO.” He called on the company’s board of directors to take action. “Tesla needs and deserves to have [a] working full time CEO,” he wrote, criticizing the company’s board of directors for apparent inaction.
Musk tweeted last week that he will “make sure” Tesla shareholders benefit from Twitter in the long term.
A survey in Germany’s Der Spiegel last week found that 63% of respondents feel that Elon Musk’s public performance as the CEO of Twitter has had a mostly negative or clearly negative impact on their view of Tesla.
And only 9% of respondents to that survey said they find Tesla very or mostly likable as a brand — the company ranked far behind VW, BMW, Opel and others in Germany. That’s despite the fact that Tesla is investing heavily in the German market. It opened a major vehicle assembly plant in Grünheide, outside of Berlin, in March this year.