Elon Musk, Twitter’s new owner, tweeted an article containing a conspiracy theory about the attack on United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul before deleting the post hours later.
Musk’s tweet on Sunday linked to an article making unsubstantiated claims about Paul Pelosi’s personal life and the role it may have played in last week’s attack at the home he shares with his wife in San Francisco.
Musk tweeted the article by the Santa Monica Observer, a website with a history of publishing misinformation, after Hillary Clinton posted an LA Times article about the suspected attacker, David DePape, and criticised Republicans for spreading “hate and deranged conspiracy theories”.
In response to Clinton’s tweet, Musk posted the article while adding there was a “tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye”.
US media outlets have linked DePape, who is accused of attacking Paul Pelosi with a hammer, to blog posts espousing far-right and extreme views online, including the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Musk, who has described himself as a “free-speech absolutist”, appeared to have deleted his tweet several hours after posting it without explanation.
The Tesla CEO’s controversial tweet comes as his $44bn purchase of the social media platform is at the centre of a heated debate about the limits of free speech in the digital age.
Musk, the world’s richest man, has criticised Twitter’s moderation policies and accused the social media giant of having a left-wing bias.
The billionaire has stressed the need for a “common digital town square” where a wide range of beliefs can be debated – while insisting he does not favour a “free-for-all hellscape”.
Critics have expressed fears that Musk’s ownership of the platform could result in a surge in hate speech and misinformation, while conservatives have heralded the takeover as a corrective to Big Tech censorship.