Fact Check: Elon Musk Did NOT Say Ex-Twitter CEO Took Millions In Censorship Kickbacks From Democrats

Fact Check

  • by: Jennifer Dobner
Fact Check: Elon Musk Did NOT Say Ex-Twitter CEO Took Millions In Censorship Kickbacks From Democrats Not From Elon

Did Elon Musk tweet that Democrats paid former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey millions of dollars to block or delete the pages of people who posted about Hunter Biden's laptop during the 2020 election? No, that's not true: Lead Stories could find no evidence that Musk wrote the tweet nor any credible news reporting on its claims.

The claim appeared in an image on Instagram on December 7, 2022. Its text read:

The Democrats paid the CEO Jack Dorsey of Twitter millions of dollars to block and delete people's pages during the 2020 election That posted anything about Hunter Biden's laptop

Let me say that again the democrats paid millions to block stories about the Biden's

Here's how the post appeared on the day of the writing of this fact check:

Screen Shot 2022-12-13 at 8.27.06 AM.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken Tues Dec 13 at 18:27:06 2022 UTC)

The post includes an image of Musk that mirrors the avatar from his verified Twitter account, but otherwise is a fake; a review of Musk's posts and a Twitter search by Lead Stories could find no tweet containing this content in his feed.

Screen Shot 2022-12-13 at 9.12.44 AM.png

(Source: Twitter search screenshot taken Tues Dec 13 at 16:12:45 2022 UTC )

Lead Stories' review of Musk's posts began with tweets from December 2, 2022, the day of the release of the "Twitter Files," a lengthy series of tweets by writers with whom the Musk-owned social media platform shared corporate information about Twitter's alleged past censorship of conservative viewpoints and voices, including former President Donald Trump, and news stories about Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden.

A similar search of Google for the language from the post also did not find the tweet Musk allegedly posted, nor any news stories about Dorsey's alleged paybacks beyond several that reported fact checks of its claims and, like Lead Stories, found them false.

Screen Shot 2022-12-13 at 9.14.42 AM.png

(Source: Google search screenshot taken Tues Dec 13 at 16:12:45 2022, UTC)

Twitter and fellow social media giant Facebook did come under fire in 2020 for alleged political censorship after blocking users from sharing a New York Post story about Hunter Biden. Twitter reversed the decision days later and Dorsey has since testified before multiple congressional oversight committees about censorship and content moderation.

The release of the "Twitter Files" has garnered some media attention -- much of it critical of the findings (here, here and here), but this coverage does not refer to any alleged kickbacks paid by Democrats to Dorsey.

In fact, none of the internal Twitter communications released so far document any evidence of payments. Rather, they focus on staff-level debates around the decision to restrict users from sharing the story.

In the wake of the "Twitter Files," Musk came to Dorsey's defense when a Twitter user questioned the former CEO's decision-making role. In the exchange, Musk said he believed "controversial decisions were made without getting Jack's approval," and that Dorsey had "a pure heart."

Lead Stories also searched Google for any indication that Dorsey had responded to either the release of the "Twitter Files" or claims that he had been paid for political censorship -- nothing was found. However, in a December 3, 2022, tweet sent to Musk, Dorsey encouraged the release of all the company's related internal records without censorship.

Screen Shot 2022-12-13 at 12.48.04 PM.png

(Source: Google search screenshot taken Tues Dec 13 at 18:48:04 2022 UTC)

Here's how Dorsey's tweet appeared on the day of writing:

Screen Shot 2022-12-13 at 12.43.21 PM.png

(Source: Twitter screenshot taken Tuesday, Dec 13 at 18:43:21 2022 UTC)

Additional Lead Stories fact checks of claims about Elon Musk and Twitter can be found here.

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  Jennifer Dobner

Jennifer Dobner is a Salt Lake City-based journalist with more than two decades of reporting experience. Jennifer has worked as a staffer for The Associated Press, The Salt Lake Tribune, San Diego Union-Tribune and Idaho Falls Post-Register. As a freelancer her work has been published by The New York Times, Outside Magazine Online, Reuters, Cannabis Wire and others. Jennifer’s documentary film work includes the international award-winning 2018 film Church & State and 2021’s award-winning Anchor Point.

Read more about or contact Jennifer Dobner

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