Elon Musk, Twitter’s new leader, has amplified a fringe conspiracy theory about the fall of the cryptocurrency company FTX, baselessly claiming that FTX laundered money intended for Ukraine to Democratic midterm campaigns.
Since taking over Twitter, Musk has cozied up to right-wing conspiracy theorists, including by tweeting out a false story about the attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. In his previous posting history, Musk has attacked the LGBTQ movement, spread COVID-19 misinformation, and amplified right-wing content and personalities. Lately, Musk has catered to his new group of right-wing cheerleaders, allowing previously exiled QAnon accounts and white supremacists to return to Twitter and even become verified users with Musk’s paid verification program.
Since last week’s midterm elections, Musk has been actively promoting the latest far-right conspiracy theory. As the cryptocurrency exchange FTX collapsed, users on Twitter and 4chan began theorizing that the demise of the platform, along with the controversy surrounding its CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried, was related to his donations to the Democratic Party. The predominant theory, which has spread across social media since at least November 11, when an unsourced tweet claimed that Bankman-Fried was using FTX to launder money intended as military aid for Ukraine back into Democratic midterm campaigns. There does not seem to be any evidence for this claim.
Within far-right and fringe online spaces, some have taken the conspiracy theory a step further, pushing antisemitic claims and targeting Bankman-Fried with antisemitic harrassment.
Musk referenced and promoted this theory in a number of tweets, in the tumultuous start to his tenure as CEO of Twitter.
After Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton claimed in a tweet that Democrats were “harassing and threatening” Musk while choosing to ignore FTX’s supposed scams, Musk responded and asserted that “SBF was a major Dem donor, so no investigation.” Later, Musk posted an image potentially originating from 4chan that showed supposed connections between Bankman-Fried and Securities and Exchange Commission head Gary Gensler.
Musk later replied with a thinking face emoji to a tweet from a Twitter Blue subscriber that included a screenshot of a 4chan post claiming that Bankman-Fried had conspired with his mother to fund Democratic groups.
Musk responded to another Twitter Blue subscriber, who tweeted a set of screenshots suggesting the World Economic Forum was involved, and he noted, “A question worth asking.”
Musk’s tweets come as he faces criticism and scrutiny over his leadership at Twitter. He recently stoked ire from Democratic lawmakers, chiefly Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), over impersonation accounts thriving on Twitter after the haphazard rollout of Twitter Blue. There have also been indications from Twitter’s legal team that Musk has been under federal investigation over his dramatic acquisition of the social media platform, with separate investigations into the national security implications of Saudi Arabia’s financial stake in Twitter now on the table.