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FACT CHECK REPORT DECEMBER 02, 2022

Alessandro Monastra, Counter Threat Strategic Communications (CTSC) Team

Chloe Bissett, Editor

Week of Monday, November 28, 2022


Twitter logo[1]


Claim: Alleged screenshots of a CNN statement regarding Elon Musk and his views on free speech have gained hundreds of thousands of likes and retweets on Twitter and Instagram. The posts claimed the CNN newscast stated Musk's idea to allow everyone to speak freely "could threaten free speech on Twitter". On November 28, 2022, the screenshots were posted by a meme page on Instagram and by Musk on Twitter.[2]

Facts:

  • Musk began investing in Twitter in January 2022 and finalized the purchase of the platform in October 2022.[3] Musk has stated several times his intention to reduce moderation on Twitter and protect free speech against censorship.[4] His post about the CNN headline was initially labeled for violation of Twitter’s "rules on sharing false, fabricated and misleading information", but while the fabricated image in question is still on his profile, the label is no longer visible.[5]

  • CNN has publicly denied that it ever published the alleged headline against Musk. There is no evidence in CNN’s online records proving the article exists.[6] A CNN spokesperson re-stated that the content is fake, highlighting errors in the image format compared to the true newscast.[7]

  • The same image has circulated online since April when it was published on Facebook. It was posted to a satirical website that posted it as the cover of an article on Musk threatening free speech.[8]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The quick reporting and subsequent flagging of Musk's post as possible misinformation is very likely due to Musk’s notoriety. Despite being temporarily flagged, the current absence of a misinformation label very likely increases users' interactions with the fabricated post and the post’s virality, as the lack of a tag will spread the post to a less niche audience. Its spread of the post’s message will likely polarize its audience between Musk's free speech narrative and the narrative of traditional media, accused of opposing free speech. This will likely increase Elon Musk fans' distrust of mainstream media.

  • The viral spread of Musk’s post, will very likely incentivize satire groups and online trolls to produce more misinformation or misleading content that mimics and distorts official news sources. There will very likely be an increase in posts that violate Twitter rules on fake news spreading. Extremist groups will very likely exploit the situation to increase their production of propaganda content. This will likely increase the instances of radicalization and calls to violence.

  • Reducing the level of moderation on Twitter will very likely increase the number of misleading posts that bypass its automated content moderation tools and reach new audiences. Twitter culture and its contents will likely evolve into a secure place for threat actors to promote misleading information. This scenario very likely disincentivizes big brands from investing in advertising on Twitter.

Verdict: FALSE

 

[2] Fact Check-CNN did not publish headline about Elon Musk and free speech on Twitter, Reuters, November 2022, https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-cnn-headline-musk/fact-check-cnn-did-not-publish-headline-about-elon-musk-and-free-speech-on-twitter-idUSL1N32P1GX

[3] A timeline of Elon Musk's tumultuous Twitter acquisition, ABC News, November 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/Business/timeline-elon-musks-tumultuous-twitter-acquisition-attempt/story?id=86611191

[4] Will Elon Musk’s Twitter become a beacon of free speech or a soap box for hate speech?, Euronews, May 2022, https://www.euronews.com/next/2022/10/28/will-elon-musk-s-twitter-become-a-beacon-of-free-speech-or-a-soap-box-for-hate-speech

[5] Fact Check-CNN did not publish headline about Elon Musk and free speech on Twitter, Reuters, November 2022, https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-cnn-headline-musk/fact-check-cnn-did-not-publish-headline-about-elon-musk-and-free-speech-on-twitter-idUSL1N32P1GX

[6] Ibid

[7] Fake Screenshot Claims CNN Said Elon Musk Threatens Free Speech, BoomLive, May 2022, https://www.boomlive.in/world/fake-news-cnn-banner-screenshot-elon-musk-twitter-free-speech-17779

[8] Ibid

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