Elon Musk abruptly announced he is closing the popular Twitter account that has repeatedly landed him in legal trouble, but then proceeded to keep it open long after he said he had deleted it.
The mixed messaging began to unfold on Sunday when the Tesla chief executive changed his Twitter handle to DaddyDotCom in apparent homage to Father’s Day. Then he signalled in a tweet that he was scrapping the account.
But 15 hours later, the account remained open under its old “elonmusk” handle with 27 million followers.
Mr Musk has used his Twitter account to pull pranks and make baffling changes in the past. In February, he suddenly changed his handle to “elontusk”. When he was later asked by reporters why he made the change, he confessed: “I was just playing the fool on Twitter.”
His apparent intention to leave Twitter after a decade on the social media service attracted widespread attention largely because his account has turned into a hornet’s nest during the past year.
The biggest flap occurred last August when he tweeted that he had lined up the financing necessary to buy Tesla in a buyout that would probably have cost more than 20 billion dollars, causing the electric car maker’s stock to swing wildly.
An offer never materialised, and the Securities and Exchange Commission later accused Mr Musk of using Twitter to mislead investors.
He denied the allegations, but he and Tesla eventually reached a 40 million dollar settlement with the SEC after regulators threatened to seek his removal as the company’s CEO. Instead, he agreed to step down as Tesla’s chairman for at least three years and also stipulated that his tweets tied to the company be pre-screened for accuracy.
Twitter got Mr Musk into trouble again in February when the SEC alleged a tweet about how many cars Tesla will manufacture this year represented another misleading statement and sought to hold him in contempt of court for violating the settlement.
That resulted in a new settlement that is supposed to put even tighter controls on his tweets about the company.
Mr Musk is also embroiled in a defamation lawsuit for a tweet that described a British diver involved in a rescue of boys trapped in an underwater cave in Thailand as a paedophile.
That tweet, posted last July, has since been deleted, and Mr Musk is fighting the lawsuit filed by Vernon Unsworth in a Los Angeles state court.