Elon Musk says his posts did more to ‘financially impair’ X than help it

April 9, 2024
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Elon Musk admitted that his posts on the platform formerly known as Twitter may have financially harmed the company in the long run, in a March 27th deposition made public on Monday by The Huffington Post. The billionaire also admitted to have a “limited understanding” of the lawsuit for which he was being deposed.

The 22-year old Ben Brody sued Musk for defamation last fall, alleging that Musk pushed a conspiracy theory that falsely identified Brody as being involved in a fight between two far-right groups in Oregon. Musk’s attorney filed multiple requests to keep the transcript of his nearly two-hour testimony confidential, but they were denied by the judge.

At one point, Musk is asked by Brody’s attorney, Mark Bankston, about his purchase of Twitter and what impact it had on his usage of the site. Musk responded that he believed his posts had “really remained unchanged before and after the acquisition.” But he acknowledged that maintaining that attitude likely did X more harm than good.

“The — and going back to the sort of self-inflicted wounds, the Kevlar shoes, I think there’s — I’ve probably done — I may have done more to financially impair the company than to help it, but certainly I — I do not guide my posts by what is financially beneficial but by what I believe is interesting or important or entertaining to the public,” said the owner of X. 

On multiple occasions, Musk expressed confusion over why Brody was pursuing litigation against him and basic details about the case. At one point he accused Bankston — Brody’s attorney — of performing a cash grab by pursuing the lawsuit. “My — what I want to think it’s really about is about you getting a lot of money,” said Musk. 

The focus of the lawsuit is a series of tweets that Musk made last summer that promoted a far-right conspiracy theory that falsely linked Brody to an Oregon brawl between the Proud Boys and a local neo-Nazi group. Brody, who is based in California, bore a vague resemblance to a participant in the brawl. Online trolls quickly latched onto the theory that the brawl was a “false flag,” and that Brody was an undercover government agent. Musk engaged with users who were pushing this conspiracy theory on X, agreeing with their conclusions that the brawl was likely a staged incident. On June 27th, Musk replied to a post that contained a video of the fight and suggested that Brody was part of a “false flag” operation. In truth, Brody was falsely identified by online trolls as one of the men in the video.

“Looks like one is a college student (who wants to join the govt) and another is maybe an Antifa member, but nonetheless a probable false flag situation,” Musk tweeted.

That tweet was directly referenced by Brody’s attorney. Musk argued that his post didn’t have that much reach due to it merely being a reply.

“The replies get 100 times less attention than a primary tweet. So this was certainly not any attempt to generate advertising revenue. In fact, generally advertisers would not want to advertise with content that is contentious,” said Musk. 

Given the size of Musk’s account and his public prominence, his reply, which still remains on the site, was viewed by over a million people, Brody’s attorney estimated.

“You do understand that the amount of people who saw this, who have viewed this tweet, is equivalent to all 30 major baseball stadiums filled to capacity?” asked Bankston.

But Musk claimed that Twitter had five to eight trillion views a year, and so a million views wasn’t significant on the platform. 

“No big deal?” said Bankston. 

“Hit or miss, yeah,” responded Musk. 

“Not a big deal that this went out to so many people?”

“Correct. And more of a — this is kind of the thing where advertisers, when it’s contentious, will not advertise, which means we do not get revenue from it,” Musk responded.  

Musk also admitted that he was the owner of an account called @ermnmusk in which he role-played as his own toddler son. Motherboard and several other outlets uncovered the mysterious account last year.

Musk also made it clear that he didn’t believe that Brody, who was forced to evacuate his home at one point, was “meaningfully harmed” due to the false accusations that he helped spread.

“People are attacked all the time in the media, online media, social media, but it is rare that that actually has a meaningful negative impact on their life,” said Musk.



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