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This Advocate Urged Elon Musk to Tweet a Resignation Poll. Moments Later, He Did.

Brianna Wu, who was a target of GamerGate, says Twitter has been "coarser" under Elon Musk's reign

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New Twitter CEO Elon Musk hasn't been shy about responding to people who tweet at him. Did one of those mentions prompt his latest potential change of direction at the social media giant?

Musk's poll asking Twitter users whether he should step down as CEO on Sunday night came moments after being challenged to do so by Brianna Wu, a prominent Massachusetts software engineer and former congressional candidate.

"Put up a poll asking if people want you to resign," Wu wrote in a tweet at 6:20 p.m., the same time code stamped on Musk's post posing the question to Twitter.

The majority of the 17.5 million users who took part in the poll — about 57.5% — voted for him to step down, a result he promised to follow through on.

Wu has over 136,000 Twitter followers and has been voicing concerns about the tech titan's negative impact on Twitter since he acquired it in April.

Wu has firsthand experience with harassment on the platform. She faced sustained death and rape threats during GamerGate, the mid-2010s online harassment campaign against women in the gaming industry. She ran for Congress in the Democratic primary for Massachusetts' 8th Congressional District in 2018 and now directs a progressive political action committee.

Billionaire Elon Musk posted a poll Sunday asking Twitter whether he should step down as CEO within moments of a suggestion to do so from Brianna Wu, a local software engineer and former Massachusetts Congressional candidate. Here's what she said about the timing.

Musk has recently been making decisions on Twitter policy based on polls, including whether to reinstate former President Donald Trump. When asked if she believes Musk was inspired by her tweet suggesting he put up a poll on his future at Twitter, Wu told NBC10 Boston she thinks it's possible.

"Obviously he hasn't come forward and said, you know, 'Brianna Wu, here's your response. I put up this poll.' So I can't know," Wu said Monday. "But you know, I do have a pretty high-profile Twitter account. I know when people that are high profile respond to my mentions, they go right to the top. And we know he's impulsive. So I'm taking the guess that he saw my poll and decide to respond to it."

Musk, who has been replying to multiple Twitter users per day for weeks, had yet to comment on the results of the poll as of Monday afternoon and did not immediately respond to NBC10 Boston requests for comment.

Musk has previously said he plans to eventually step down as CEO of Twitter and to find someone else to run the company over time. “Those who want power are the ones who least deserve it,” he tweeted late Sunday.

Elon Musk is a Stanford dropout, co-founder of six companies, including SpaceX and Tesla, and is one of the richest men in the world.

Wu said she thinks it's "very likely" that Musk will step down as promised. Shares of Tesla — another one of Musk’s companies — dropped about 60% year to date as of Friday’s close, she noted. Meanwhile, Wu added, advertisers are slashing their spending on the platform.

"I think the bottom line is, Elon Musk wanted more free speech on Twitter and he got it," Wu said. "People don't like the direction of Twitter under him. So I think that if this service is going to be salvaged, it definitely needs to get new leadership."

The bottom line is, Elon Musk wanted more free speech on Twitter and he got it.

Brianna Wu

Twitter has become "coarser," since Musk took over, according to Wu, who said she consulted with the company’s trust and safety team in an unofficial, unpaid capacity from 2014 to late 2021. Wu said Musk has undone years of policy progress at Twitter.

"In 2014, I was one of the primary targets of GamerGate, which was a watershed moment for women in tech. We got death threats in a very, very extreme way that got not just national but international attention," Wu said. "As a result of that Twitter changed many of their policies about death threats, rape threats, harassment. Elon Musk has dismantled all of them. And I can tell you from my feed has become a much more caustic place to spend time."

Musk tweeted the poll Sunday amid criticism for a new policy in which Twitter briefly banned users from promoting accounts on other social media sites, including Facebook and Instagram.

Brianna Wu discussing Gamergate in a file photo.
Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images, File
Brianna Wu discussing Gamergate in a file photo.

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