Twitter overlord Elon Musk seems to have violated his own rules about posting satirical content without a disclaimer — only to laugh off the fake news as a jab at CNN.

Elon Musk trolled the cable news network Monday by posting a Photoshopped image of anchor Don Lemon with the headline of a fake news story.

“CNN: Elon Musk could threaten free speech on Twitter by literally allowing people to speak freely,” Musk tweeted.

The image included a screenshot of Lemon next to a stock photo of Musk. The chyron below is identical to the headline.

Twitter users immediately added a disclaimer to Musk’s tweet, reminding visitors to the site that the CNN story wasn’t real.

“The screencap in this image is not real and originated from a satirical website,” the disclaimer read.

CNN’s public relations department posted a screenshot of Musk’s tweet, which included a disclaimer saying that the tweet was in violation of Twitter’s rules.

“This headline never appeared on CNN. Be better,” CNN’s PR team tweeted at Musk.

“CNN aired no such report about Musk ‘threatening free speech’ and the chyron has been digitally altered to add the text.”

Musk brushed off CNN’s response, tweeting: “Lmaoooo.” Those are the initials for “laughing my ass off.”

After taking over Twitter, Musk rolled out a new verification subscription plan whereby Twitter users who pay $8 a month could get a verified blue check next to their name.

But chaos ensued when pranksters impersonated celebrities, politicians and major corporations by assuming their identities on Twitter and posting fake items that were designed to make them look bad.

Musk was forced to pause the rollout of the subscription plan. He also started banning Twitter users who impersonated him.

Musk then required Twitter users to label their accounts as parody if they intended on impersonating others.

“Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” Musk tweeted earlier this month.

“Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning. This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue.”

“Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark.”

In April, the Associated Press published a fact-check item noting that the meme which Musk posted was originally circulating online thanks to the satirical news outlet Genesius Times, which bills itself as “the most reliable source of fake news on the planet.”

Screenshots just displaying the image and headline — without any indication it was satire — quickly spread online.

CNN angrily responded to the meme, demanding that Musk "do better."
CNN angrily responded to the meme, demanding that Musk “do better.”
LightRocket via Getty Images

While some users pointed out that the original report is meant to be humorous and that the image is a meme, others on Facebook and Twitter appeared to believe the image came from a genuine CNN broadcast.

One such Facebook post sharing just the headline and image received more than 1,000 likes and shares, with comments criticizing CNN for apparently running the report.

“Makes total sense …to CNN. Doesn’t matter much if you check CNN’s ratings,” one user wrote. Others sharing the image wrote “CNN should be shut down,” and “They do not support the constitution.”

A Twitter user sharing the headline and image simply put the caption, “Wait… WHAT?!?,” receiving more than 4,000 shares and 10,000 likes.

But the image and report are satire, not authentic.

Later on Monday, Musk slammed Apple for allegedly pulling their ads from Twitter.

“Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?” Musk tweeted.

“What’s going on here @timcook?”

The Post has sought comment from Apple.

Musk last week personally reached out to the CEOs of companies that have pulled their ads from Twitter in recent weeks, according to Financial Times.

The meme featured a fake news segment. It included the image of CNN anchor Don Lemon.
The meme featured a fake news segment. It included the image of CNN anchor Don Lemon.
FilmMagic

Since taking over the social media company, Musk has overhauled its content moderation policies and reinstated controversial accounts that were banned by previous management.

Musk followed through on his pledge to reactivate the account of former President Donald Trump, who was suspended from the site in the wake of the riot at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

He has also reinstated rapper Kanye West despite recent anti-Semitic posts as well as the satirical news site the Babylon Bee, among others.

Madison Avenue firms reportedly warned Musk that reinstating controversial accounts would prompt top brand names to remove their ads from Twitter.

Musk on Monday also accused Apple of pausing its advertisements on Twitter.
Musk on Monday also accused Apple of pausing its advertisements on Twitter.
AFP via Getty Images

Media Matters, a pro-Democratic watchdog group, compiled a report claiming that half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers have halted ads on the site due to “controversies” and “warnings from media buyers.”

Ad industry figures told FT that they have had little contact with Twitter staffers because so few of them are left after Musk laid off more than half of the company’s workforce in the last month.

With Post wires



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Tyler Cowan