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Musk to step down from Twitter CEO Post

Really, suggest the poll was rigged? Otherwise, you were doing great. Eckkk

Elon Musk Says He Plans to Step Down as Twitter Head After Casting Doubt on Poll

Billionaire has suggested outcome of vote he called might have been rigged

Elon Musk said when he started the Twitter poll that he would abide by the results.

By Sarah E. Needleman, WSJ

Updated Dec. 20, 2022 10:08 pm ET

Elon Musk said he planned to step down as Twitter Inc. chief executive officer after casting doubt on a poll he initiated on the future leadership of the social-media platform that ended up calling for him to hand over the top job.

Nearly 58% of the more than 17 million Twitter accounts that responded to Mr. Musk’s poll by the time it closed Monday morning voted for him to step down as head of Twitter. Mr. Musk, who has used Twitter polls to validate his statements or decisions, had said when he launched the poll that he would abide by the results.

Mr. Musk went about 38 hours after the poll closed without addressing his plans for Twitter’s leadership, before tweeting late Tuesday that he “will resign as CEO as soon as I find someone foolish enough to take the job! After that, I will just run the software & servers teams.”

Mr. Musk previously said that he intended to relinquish the role as head of Twitter, but without committing to a firm timeline and suggesting on several occasions that finding someone to take the job would be hard.

After the poll results came out, he engaged with several Twitter users who raised questions about the poll outcome. At one point Tuesday, Mr. Musk suggested the vote’s outcome might have been affected by automated bot accounts on the platform that Mr. Musk had said he had begun to tame since buying Twitter Inc. in late October in a deal valued at $44 billion.

Mr. Musk was reacting to a poll conducted by New York-based market-research firm HarrisX that said a majority of Twitter users in the U.S. wanted Mr. Musk to remain at the top of Twitter. The company said it had asked 1,028 adults to respond, among them 429 Twitter users, and that the poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points among the general population and 5 percentage points among Twitter users.

“Interesting. Suggest that maybe we might still have an itsy bitsy bot problem on Twitter …,” Mr. Musk tweeted in response.

On Monday, Mr. Musk started to seed doubt about the outcome. He engaged with two people on Twitter that had separately suggested the outcome might have been rigged, in each instance responding with “Interesting.”

Twitter polls like the ones Mr. Musk frequently uses have never been statistically reliable, according to professional pollsters. Pollsters take pains to ensure that they sample representative sets of people, among other techniques to try to maximize their accuracy. Twitter polls are open to anyone who decides to weigh in—potentially including bots.

“Typically polls like these on social-media platforms are really just an extension of the echo chamber that’s created by that platform,” said Mallory Newall, vice president at Ipsos, a global market-research and public-polling company. “You’re polling your most-active users, which is not representative of the U.S. or global population as a whole.”

Larry Rosin, president of the polling firm Edison Research Inc., took issue with the short windows in which Mr. Musk’s leadership poll was publicized and made open for people to vote. Respondents were most likely people who happened to be on Twitter when it was live, he said.

“Something like this isn’t designed to represent all Twitter users or any full population,” said Mr. Rosin. “It’s what we call in our world a ‘convenience sample.’ It doesn’t mean it’s representative of any group except for those who chose to participate.”

He added that foul play is also a possibility. “People game this stuff,” he said.

Nevertheless, Mr. Musk has repeatedly used Twitter’s poll feature, even before taking over the company, often in a seeming effort to provide popular cover for decisions. Last year Mr. Musk embarked on a Tesla Inc. share-selling spree after asking people on Twitter whether he should unload stock. Mr. Musk had already committed to the preset trading plan, according to regulatory filings.

In November, Mr. Musk reinstated the Twitter account of former President Donald Trump, which had been suspended by the company in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol. Mr. Musk in May had already said he would restore the account if his deal to buy Twitter went through.

On Monday, Mr. Musk suggested future Twitter polls might only be accessible to those paying for the platform’s subscription service. He launched another poll Tuesday about Congress, with the voting open to Twitter users more widely.

Twitter didn’t respond to a request for comment on its polling process.

The number of respondents to a poll isn’t as important as the kind of people who participate, said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Photos: How Elon Musk Made His Fortune

“When you get a grab bag of people, they often have extreme views,” he said. “They may not represent your rank-and-file Twitter user.”

The more people who opt to participate in a poll—as opposed to being selected because they meet a certain criteria—the more likely the results will be skewed, added Mr. Miringoff. “It doesn’t mean the results are necessarily bogus, but they’re not dependable,” he said.

Even before the poll closed, Mr. Musk had raised the challenge of finding someone to succeed him as head of Twitter. “No one wants the job who can actually keep Twitter alive. There is no successor,” Mr. Musk tweeted Sunday.

The billionaire, who also runs the auto maker Tesla and the rocket company SpaceX, last month suggested that he eventually would hand over day-to-day running of the social-media company to someone else, though that such a move wasn’t immediate.

“I expect to reduce my time at Twitter and find somebody else to run Twitter over time,” he testified at a trial about his Tesla pay package. He also said he has been spending most of his time of late focusing on Twitter. At the time, he wrote on Twitter, “I will continue to run Twitter until it is in a strong place, which will take some time.”

Eric Wilson, a Republican digital strategist in Washington, said Mr. Musk has acted on every poll conducted so far. “If he doesn’t abide by this one, it undercuts any future poll he does,” he said.

—For more WSJ Technology analysis, reviews, advice and headlines, sign up for our weekly newsletter.

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