Elon Musk didn’t get Bill Gates suspended from Twitter
CLAIM: Shortly after Elon Musk reached an agreement to buy Twitter on Monday, Bill Gates was suspended from the platform.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. A screenshot purporting to show a suspension notice on Bill Gates’ Twitter account on Monday is fake. Gates’ profile remained active on Twitter as of Tuesday and there is no record of it having been recently suspended.
THE FACTS: In the hours after Tesla CEO Musk reached an agreement to buy Twitter for roughly $44 billion, a fake screenshot emerged on the platform with claims it showed Musk had already influenced the social media company to suspend billionaire philanthropist Gates, who he has publicly criticized in recent days.
“Elon moves quick,” said one Twitter user who posted the manipulated screenshot on Monday afternoon, receiving more than 4,000 shares and 38,000 likes. “First thing,” commented another user sharing the fake image.
The screenshot appeared to show Gates’ Twitter profile, including his picture, follower count, bio, location and website, above a notice saying, “Account suspended. Twitter suspends accounts that violate the Twitter Rules.”
However, Gates’ account is active as of Tuesday, and an archive of the web page documented on Monday at about 1:15 p.m. — around the time news first broke that Twitter was poised to accept Musk’s offer — shows his account had not been taken down and no such notice had been posted.
There is other evidence that the image is fake. Twitter profiles that are suspended appear to users without profile pictures or bio sections. They no longer list details such as follower counts, locations or website links, either — unlike what was shown in the altered screenshot.
Those who visit a suspended profile only see the user’s handle, and a gray background where the profile picture and header photo are usually displayed, along with a notice that says, “Account suspended. Twitter suspends accounts that violate the Twitter Rules. Learn more.”
Musk has said he wants to own and privatize Twitter because he thinks it’s not living up to its potential as a platform for free speech. He has often used the platform to voice his disagreements and opinions, including on Sunday, when he called out Gates, saying that he turned down a request from the Microsoft co-founder to discuss climate change philanthropy because he believed Gates was short-selling shares of Tesla stock.
“I heard from multiple people at TED that Gates still had half billion short against Tesla,” Musk wrote in a Twitter reply on Friday to a user who had posted screenshots of an alleged text message conversation between the two business magnates.
Still, Musk has also said he wants his “worst critics” to remain on Twitter because “that is what free speech means.”
Twitter said Monday the transaction with Musk was unanimously approved by its board of directors and is expected to close in 2022, pending regulatory sign-off and the approval of shareholders.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.