Elon Musk Faces His Latest PR Challenge

It seemed too good to be true. 

“I’m feeling generous because of Covid-19,” entrepreneur and innovator Elon Musk announced on Twitter this week, “I’ll double any BTC payment sent to my BTC address for the next hour. Good luck, and stay safe out there!”

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt daily life and ravage the global economy, the message from Musk was deemed plausible by many. In addition to being the face of global technology giants Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk has garnered a reputation for outlandish and erratic behaviour online. A Bitcoin giveaway fit the bill. 

As it turned out, however, Musk had been hacked by scammers – as had the Twitter accounts of a number of high-profile users, including the likes of Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Joe Biden. Several details of the scam are yet to be explained, including how the hack happened and to what extent Twitter’s systems were compromised, but two things are clear: this latest incident is one of the most widespread hacks Twitter has ever seen, and Elon Musk has yet another PR headache on his hands.

The timing of the incident couldn’t be worse for Musk, who is attempting to drum up excitement about Tesla’s upcoming Gigafactory in Berlin, Germany. Musk is no doubt aware of current speculation surrounding Tesla’s schedule for the Gigafactory Berlin. Tesla has already been forced to withdraw U.S. employees working on the factory due to coronavirus concerns, and has also run into issues with the soil at the construction site. Whether or not Tesla will be able to meet its timeline to start production of “batteries, powertrains and vehicles” in July 2021 remains to be seen.

Just a few hours before the cryptocurrency scam went live, Musk posted a characteristically short Twitter comment reading “Giga Berlin,” attached to a rendering of the planned factory. For a short time, questions and comments came pouring in.

“Is that solar panel on the roof,” asked one user. “Yes.” Musk replied.

“Not a single chimney, how can this be possible,” asked World of Engineering, “Cool design though.” Musk was quick to respond that the chimneys are “carefully hidden.”

Immediately following the hacking scandal, comments on the Gigafactory reveal have taken on a new tone. “I sent you $10,000 bitcoin, can you please send it back,” reads one comment, “I sent you 67 bitcoins, it was the savings for my studies at the university, the purchase of a car and an apartment, what should I do now?” challenges another.

This isn’t the first time Musk has been the target of bitcoin scammers on the platform, with the creation of countless fake accounts designed to look like Musk’s, with responses to scams designed to make them seem legitimate. Twitter has even taken to locking some accounts that change their name to that of the entrepreneur. In the wake of this latest scandal, it seems that Musk’s reliance and trademark messaging flair on the platform is both a blessing and a curse.