In March this year, Tesla CEO and billionaire Elon Musk announced that journalists who send queries to the company’s press department would be greeted with a single poop emoji in email. Since then, several media outlets have reported getting that automated reply.
As NPR explains, the 51-year-old Musk has made no secret of his disdain for the media. He banished the media from Tesla in 2020 and then purchased Twitter, where he has been equally dismissive of the press.
Last month, he yanked the verified checkmark from the accounts of the New York Times and other news outlets after they wrote about his decision to suspend flights on his private jet in response to security concerns. He has characterized the move as necessary to prevent “doxxing” or sharing information about private activities (in this case, his travels). “Some of the smartest people I know actively believe the press is intentionally lying,” he tweeted.
His latest move is even more eyebrow-raising. Upon hearing that inquiries sent to Twitter’s official press email address were being responded to with a poop emoji, the tech site, Insider tested it for itself. And sure enough, it works as advertised.
The tweet from the account that manages the email addresses for Twitter’s communications team reads: “If you contact us, you may receive a response including a poop emoji.”
According to Insider, Twitter is still rebuilding its press department, which was decimated by rounds of layoffs after Musk took over the company. But journalists can’t expect to be able to use that email address to get answers on the company’s numerous problems, like declining advertising revenue, significant outages, and lawsuits.
Twitter’s communications team has now started sending journalists an automatic poop emoji instead of actual replies, which NPR reports is a departure from the policy set out by Musk. The move will likely only please some people, from the left to the right of the political spectrum.
Psychoanalysts contacted by the Guardian seemed reluctant to weigh in on why the man who once called for the death of “fake news” journalists appears to be stuck in what one calls a “Freud’s anal stage.”
However, many take to Twitter to express their displeasure at the move. “Twitter, you have a responsibility to your users to maintain the integrity of the platform and its discourse,” writes Icelandic entrepreneur Halli Thorleifsson in a tweet that has received more than 17,000 likes. Another Twitter user, the founder of a company that helps companies with their PR efforts, says that the poop emoji insult journalists and those who report on them. “As a journalist, I’m offended by this,” she writes. “I’m also disgusted at the level of trolling this Twitter is engaging in.”