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Elon Musk now says he’ll step down as Twitter CEO

But we don’t know when, or who will replace him.

Elon Musk onstage holding a microphone.
Twitter CEO Elon Musk says he’ll resign as soon as he finds a replacement.
Carina Johansen/NTB/AFP via Getty Images
Shirin Ghaffary is a senior Vox correspondent covering the social media industry. Previously, Ghaffary worked at BuzzFeed News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and TechCrunch.

It took over 40 hours, but Elon Musk has finally acknowledged the results of a public poll he ran calling for him to step down as CEO of Twitter.

“I will resign as CEO as soon as I find someone foolish enough to take the job!” Musk tweeted on Tuesday night. “After that, I will just run the software & servers teams.”

The admission comes after a poll Musk himself launched, in which some 17 million Twitter users — or 57.5 percent of those polled — said they were in favor of Musk resigning. Musk did not immediately accept the results publicly, which he said he’d do but rather cast doubt on the validity of the poll.

It wasn’t just anonymous Twitter users who wanted Musk to step down. Outside investors also called for Musk to focus less on Twitter and more on Tesla. They’ve seen the Twitter drama as something that distracted Musk from his more lucrative business at Tesla, which saw its stock price fall precipitously in recent weeks. Musk has long said he eventually wanted to step down as Twitter CEO, so it’s unclear why he seemed so unwilling to accept the results of the poll calling for him to end his chaotic reign as head of the company.

All that said, the recent poll debacle demonstrates Musk’s self-destructive attachment to running Twitter despite the fact that it has jeopardized his reputation and business success since he took over in October. It’s also another example of how Musk can’t seem to handle criticism — from debating the percentage of people in the crowd who were booing him at a comedy show to firing employees who criticized him, and now, dismissing the legitimacy of the Twitter users who voted him out of the company he just bought.

Rather than commenting on the results of the poll in the hours after it concluded, Musk took to Twitter on Monday morning and encouraged questions about whether the results were legitimate. He engaged in a Twitter thread by a user suggesting that a “deep state” bot army was rigging the poll against him. Musk replied to another user in the same thread who suggested that only paid subscribers to Twitter Blue should be able to vote in polls. He said, “Twitter will make that change.”

Polls have been a favored tactic in Musk’s erratic leadership style for making major decisions at Twitter. When he polled users about whether Twitter should reinstate the account of former US President Donald Trump, for example, Musk quickly accepted the results that were narrowly in favor of bringing Trump back on. Hours after the poll closed, Musk tweeted that “the people have spoken” and reinstated Trump’s account.

This time, though, Musk dragged his feet. On Tuesday, Musk replied to a tweet by market research firm HarrisX, which conducted its own poll and found that 61 percent of people wanted Musk to stay on.

Musk had complained about Twitter bots since before he bought the platform. At that time, he tried to use the platform’s bot problem as an excuse to get out of the deal. But since he took over, Musk said he’s wiped Twitter of excessive bots. It was confusing, then, that he would run a poll on Twitter about the fate of his own leadership if he didn’t have complete confidence in its validity.

But again, it was always part of Musk’s plan to eventually find a replacement CEO for Twitter. In November, he told a Delaware court, “I expect to reduce my time at Twitter and find somebody else to run Twitter over time.”

Part of what seemed to be holding Musk back, however, is that he saw no good replacement.

“No one wants the job who can actually keep Twitter alive. There is no successor,” tweeted Musk on Sunday. Then, on Tuesday, he replied with laughing emojis at a recent NBC story reporting that he’s actively looking for a new CEO.

So after he created an artificial deadline to do something he already wanted to do, Musk finally seems ready to take the next step.

Update, December 20, 10:10 pm ET: This story has been updated to include the latest information about Elon Musk’s plans to step down as CEO of Twitter.

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