Elon Musk put himself and his politics center stage on Twitter on Election Day.
The world’s richest man began his day on Tuesday by tweeting to his 115 million followers that they should vote Republican in the midterm elections. He said he was not being motivated by criticism that he has faced from Democrats over his $44 billion purchase of Twitter, which he completed last month, along with his other business dealings.
“While it’s true that I’ve been under unfair & misleading attack for some time by leading Democrats, my motivation here is for centrist governance, which matches the interests of most Americans,” Mr. Musk said.
His posts about politics and the midterms followed several tweets on Monday, when Mr. Musk urged his followers to vote Republican because “shared power curbs the worst excesses of both parties.” His remarks were immediately cheered by those on the right and criticized by the left. Mr. Musk added later that he was an independent and was open to voting for Democrats in the future.
Mr. Musk has defied corporate convention throughout his career, but rarely has an executive with such a powerful role over political speech so overtly outlined his views heading into an election. Many mainstream internet companies have typically tried projecting apolitical stances. It is impossible to tell how many of Mr. Musk’s followers will take his advice.
Mr. Musk’s behavior raises more questions about how Twitter will balance his desire for the platform to be a hub for unfettered free speech versus the need to counter misinformation and hate. The social media service is under heavy scrutiny this week for how it will fare in combating falsehoods about voting, election results and more in the midterms. That is especially the case since Mr. Musk laid off roughly half of Twitter’s employees, or about 3,700 people, on Friday, leading critics to wonder how the site could effectively function.
In a report on Monday, researchers at the Fletcher School at Tufts University said “the quality of the conversation has decayed” on Twitter since Mr. Musk’s takeover as more extremists and misinformation peddlers tested the platform’s boundaries.
Some Twitter executives have tried to assuage concerns about the platform in the midterms. Yoel Roth, the company’s head of trust and safety, who helps oversee content moderation, tweeted last week that about 15 percent of his organization was laid off, versus about 50 percent companywide.
“Our efforts on election integrity — including harmful misinformation that can suppress the vote and combating state-backed information operations — remain a top priority,” Mr. Roth wrote.
Mr. Musk has said several times that Twitter has not changed its content rules. He also has said that he planned to form a council that would make content moderation decisions.
“Twitter is the worst!” Mr. Musk tweeted on Tuesday. “But also the best.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.