Since taking over Twitter, Elon Musk has shown a willingness, and sometimes a relish, to pick public fights with an array of targets, including advertisers, tech giants, employees and more.
But over the weekend, Musk publicly attacked two figures, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, in ways that may resonate with far-right audiences and gin up user engagement — but are likely to deter wary advertisers from flocking back to the social network anytime soon.
“My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci,” Musk tweeted on Sunday, scoring points with both critics of the use of nonbinary pronouns and of Mr. Fauci, America’s top immunologist, who disagreed with President Donald Trump on how to reopen the country in 2020. Mr. Musk has previously criticized pandemic lockdowns, having defied one that affected Tesla’s factory in California, and remote work. (Mr. Fauci himself wrote in a Times Opinion guest essay how political divisiveness has hampered public health campaigns.)
Musk’s tweet drew predictable responses, including support from far-right figures like Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and rebukes from Democratic lawmakers like Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Some on Twitter noted that Musk’s own predictions about the pandemic fell drastically short of reality.
Mr. Musk also spread misinformation about Mr. Roth, misleadingly suggesting that the former Twitter executive’s doctoral thesis advocated for child sexualization. The move opened up Mr. Roth — whom Mr. Musk had publicly supported in the first days of his Twitter ownership, before Mr. Roth quit — to online abuse.
Musk says that he has focused relentlessly on improving public safety on Twitter, and accused previous management of failing to do so. But Jack Dorsey, the company’s co-founder and former C.E.O., disputed that assertion. And three members of Twitter’s Trust & Safety Council announced their resignation last week, citing the company’s increased reliance on automated content moderation.