Elon Musk responds with sex joke after Tesla stock sale Twitter poll criticism

Elon Musk
The billionaire has been criticised - and fined US$20m - in the past for his social media use. Photo credit: Getty Images

Criticism of Elon Musk using a social media poll to make a multi-billion dollar business decision drew a response from the world's richest man that not many might have expected: A puerile sex joke.

Over the weekend Musk asked his Twitter followers to vote on whether he should sell 10 percent of his Tesla shares, saying he would abide by the decision.

Over 3.5 million people voted in the poll, with 58 percent supporting a sell of stock.

The deal, which could be worth around NZ$29.3 billion, was in response to a 'billionaires tax' proposed by Democrats in the US, which would see around 700 of the richest people in the country asked to pay more tax.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who chairs the Senate Finance committee responsible for the proposed tax, replied to the SpaceX CEO's poll saying "whether or not the world's wealthiest man pays any taxes at all shouldn't depend on the results of a Twitter poll".

Musk's response?

"Why does [your profile pic] look like [you] just came?"

For some, the South African is an inspiration, a billionaire trying to make a difference in the world and someone that people should aspire to emulate.

To others, the SpaceX CEO takes advantage of his position to influence the share value of his companies and the value of cryptocurrency while making gross jokes on social media.

The latest example of the latter comes just days after he was criticised for another tweet that would have fitted better in an American Pie-type comedy movie than the feed of someone worth over US$300 billion.

"Am thinking of starting a new university: Texas Institute of Technology & Science," he wrote, following that up with "it will have epic merch" and "universally admired", a play on the initials of the new university spelling 'tits'.

That drew numerous responses highlighting that women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) already face harassment and it might not be a good look for a leader in the STEM field to make such a joke.

One of the leaders of an anti-harassment group at Apple, Cher Scarlett, responded sarcastically: "I heard sexualising women is a top-down, systemic issue in tech. Might be wrong though idk."

Musk's off-colour jokes aside, his use of social media may still have bigger consequences.

The 'should I sell' poll caused Tesla's shares to drop by around six percent, before recovering to around three percent down, and that could raise the ire of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the US.

He has already been fined US$20 million by the SEC and forced to resign from his role as chairman of Tesla after tweeting in August 2018 he was considering taking the company private.

As part of the agreement to halt further action the company also paid a US$20 million fine and Musk agreed to have public statements about Tesla overseen by the company's lawyers.

It's unclear whether Musk's latest pronouncements will draw action from the SEC, but it is known the commission has written to Tesla at least twice since the gigantic fine saying Musk's tweets about the company hadn't been approved.

Bloomberg reports it's unlikely as the poll was an "nonbinding theatrical exercise" and there's been no regulatory filing to say a sale is taking place, which means Musk's promise to abide by the result of the poll are, essentially, worthless.

In the meantime Musk is able to keep moving forward on his dream of colonising Mars and leave his 69.2 million Twitter followers wondering whether his next pronouncement is a technological breakthrough or another bad taste joke.