‘Trumpisdead’ Trending on Twitter in Moderation Test for Elon Musk

‘Trumpisdead’ Trending on Twitter in Moderation Test for Elon Musk
  • A comedian intentionally started the claim, in what could be a test for Elon Musk.
  • The claim was trending on Twitter. Trump’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
  • Musk’s handling of moderation on the platform has quickly become an issue under his leadership.

A comedian and actor is putting Elon Musk’s control of Twitter and its moderation practices to the test.

Tim Heidecker, known for his standup and TV work with fellow comedian Eric Wareheim, on Tuesday started the hashtag #TrumpIsDead on Twitter, owned by Musk since Thursday. In a short series of tweets regarding former president Donald Trump, Heidecker wrote “Trump is dead (died badly)” and tagged Musk in saying the billionaire “suppressed this news (or has he?)”

“Many are sad by the news,” Heidecker went on. “I heard he died in a sad and sick way (not as a dog, but this reporting could change soon).” The comedian is verified on Twitter, with a blue check mark by his name. 

Within an hour, Heidecker’s tweets had amassed close more than 20,000 likes, thousands of retweets and #TrumpIsDead began trending on Twitter on Tuesday. Musk had yet to respond to or comment on the posts. He has remained a very active user since his takeover, tweeting and responding to other tweets numerous times each day. One of Musk’s first tweets after his take over was “comedy is now legal on Twitter.”  

Twitter and Musk did not respond to a request for comment. An email sent to Trump’s office seeking comment did not get a response on Tuesday evening. 

Moderation misinformation, disinformation, hate speech and other problematic content on Twitter has quickly become an issue under Musk’s leadership — so much so that Musk changed his Twitter bio on Monday from Chief Twit to Twitter Complaint Hotline Operator.

The use of slurs and hate speech grew exponentially in the days following Musk’s takeover. The platform has also limited the number of employees allowed to remove such content since he took over, as Bloomberg reported. Although Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, Yoel Roth, said Twitter’s rules were “still being enforced at scale” amid the Musk transition.

“This is exactly what we (or any company) should be doing in the midst of a corporate transition to reduce opportunities for insider risk,” Roth said of the reduced access to moderation tools.

Heidecker’s thread could prove a notable trial for Roth and Musk. Commenters on the thread quickly hopped onto the joke, proposing numerous satirical but fake additions to what did or may have become of Trump, from an attack of bees to a death involving McDonald’s.

Are you a Twitter employee or someone else with insight to share? Contact Kali Hays at [email protected], on secure messaging app Signal at 949-280-0267, or through Twitter DM at @hayskali. Reach out using a non-work device.