Twitter’s communications team has been effectively silent since November, when it was reportedly decimated in the layoffs that CEO Elon Musk implemented after buying the company.
That means it hasn’t responded to journalists’ questions about any of the developments that have happened since — from the layoffs and mass resignations themselves to major changes to the user experience to a series of controversies involving Musk and his announcement that he will eventually step down.
Now the press email address is active again, at least to some extent.
Going forward it will automatically reply to journalists’ inquiries with a single poop emoji, Musk announced — via tweet, of course — on Sunday.
When asked for comment on Monday morning, Twitter promptly responded to NPR’s email with a scat symbol.
Scores of Twitter users confirmed that they had successfully tested the feature for themselves, and many were quick to criticize him and the new policy.
“Huh, same as general user experience then,” wrote Charles Rickett, a video editor with the U.K. tabloid Metro, in a comment that’s gotten more than 1,600 likes.
Musk advocates for free speech
Musk, who bought Twitter for $44 billion in October, describes himself as a “free speech absolutist” and framed the takeover in terms of protecting expression.
But many of his moves in that direction — from weakening its content moderation practices to reinstating accounts that had been suspended for rule violations — have fueled safety and misinformation concerns.
Musk’s stated commitment to free speech has also been called into question by his treatment of journalists.
In December, he took the highly unusual step of banning the accounts of several high-profile journalists who cover the platform after an abrupt change in policy about accounts that share the locations of private jets (including his own) using publicly available information.
There’s some relevant history
This isn’t the first time Musk has de-prioritized external communications at a company he owns — or invoked the poop emoji in serious matters.
Tesla, the much-talked-about electric car company of which Musk is co-founder and CEO, stopped responding to press questions in 2020 and reportedly dissolved its PR department that same year.
In 2021, Musk responded to tweets from journalists asking him to reconsider.
“Other companies spend money on advertising & manipulating public opinion, Tesla focuses on the product,” he wrote. “I trust the people.”
Tesla has faced its share of controversies in the years since. Notably, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sued Musk for securities fraud over a series of 2018 tweets teasing a Tesla buyout that never happened. A jury cleared him of wrongdoing in February.
And Musk regularly uses Twitter to troll those who disagree with him, as NPR has reported.
In May 2022, Musk put his Twitter buyout plans on hold following reports that 5% of Twitter’s daily active users are spam accounts. Then-CEO Parag Agrawal wrote a lengthy thread using “data, facts and context” to detail the company’s efforts to combat spam — and Musk responded with a poop emoji.
When Twitter sued Musk to force him to go through with the acquisition, it cited that tweet (among others) as evidence that he had violated his non-disparagement obligation to the company.
When news of that citation went public, Musk took to Twitter to clarify what he had meant: