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FACT CHECK REPORT

Neima Izadi, Counter Threat Strategic Communications (CTSC) Team

Chloe Bissett, Editor

Week of Monday, October 31, 2022


Elon Musk[1]


Claim: In a now deleted tweet Elon Musk propagates an article from the Santa Monica Observer that claimed that Paul Pelosi, husband of Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, brought home a male prostitute from a Gay bar.[2] “There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye,” read Musk’s tweet, along with a link to the Santa Monica Observer article.[3]

Facts:

  • Musk tweeted the fake news story within days of his purchase of social media platform Twitter, sharing the story with his 113 million followers.[4]

  • At 0230 on October 28, 2022, Paul Pelosi was attacked with a hammer in his home in San Francisco,[5] where he sustained a fracture to his skull and hand injuries. The attacker has been identified as David DePape, who allegedly shouted “Where is Nancy,” during the attack. [6] Nancy Pelosi was in Washington at the time of the incident.

  • There is no evidence that the attacker who entered Pelosi’s home, David DePape, is a “male prostitute,”[7] nor any indication that Paul Pelosi previously knew his attacker.

Analysis & Implications:

  • Musk’s tweet likely indicates a staunch attitude to ensuring “free speech” and to the future of content moderation on Twitter. Musk likely sees ensuring free speech as more important than countering mis/disinformation. Musk sharing fake news on Twitter likely indicates that he will not implement further content moderation on Twitter, and will likely repeal some of the moderation practices already in place. Prioritizing free speech over content moderation will very likely increase the amount of misinformation and disinformation on Twitter.

  • The increasing levels of mis/disinformation on Twitter will likely radicalize individuals to extremist causes, due to increased exposure to extremist content online. It is likely that continued exposure to disinformation and extremist content will violently radicalize users. Individuals radicalized to violence will likely target specific ethnic groups or people with opposing political views, causing property damage to areas these groups frequent, and injuring and killing targeted individuals.

  • Public officials and private citizens will likely lose confidence in Twitter’s willingness and ability to moderate both extremist content and mis/disinformation on the platform. It is likely that users will migrate to other social media platforms that moderate extremist content. The migration of mainstream users to other platforms will likely create an echo chamber of extremist views on Twitter.

Verdict: FALSE

 

[1]Elon Musk Dreaming of a Brighter Future" by Steve Jurvetson licensed under CC BY 2.0.

[2] False Rumor Claims Paul Pelosi Brought Attacker Home from Gay Bar, Snopes, November 2022, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/paul-pelosi-gay-prostitute/

[3] Ibid

[4] Elon Musk said Twitter wouldn't become a 'hellscape.' It's already changing, National Public Radio (NPR), October 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/10/31/1132906782/elon-musk-twitter-pelosi-conspiracy

[5] What is known about the attack on Speaker Pelosi’s husband, AP, October 2022, https://apnews.com/article/arrests-california-san-francisco-1582f7f07e277d65ce445c39de9a8bca

[6] Ibid

[7] False Rumor Claims Paul Pelosi Brought Attacker Home from Gay Bar, Snopes, November 2022, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/paul-pelosi-gay-prostitute/

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