By Nivedita Balu
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk arrives at the In America: An Anthology of Fashion themed Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, New York, U.S., May 2, 2022. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
(Reuters) -Twitter users voted in a poll for Elon Musk to step down as chief executive of the social media platform, in a backlash against the billionaire less than two months after he took over. About 57.5% votes were for "Yes", while 42.5% were against the idea of Musk stepping down as the head of Twitter, according to the poll the billionaire launched on Sunday evening. Over 17.5 million people voted.
Musk said on Sunday he would abide by the results of the poll, but did not give details on when he would step down if results said he should.
The poll results capped a whirlwind of actions over the past few days, including the suspension of journalists which drew condemnation from news organizations, advocacy groups and officials across Europe.
The sudden banning of accounts that promoted rival social media platforms such as Facebook (NASDAQ:META) sparked retaliation even among long-time supporters.
Startup fund Y-Combinator founder Paul Graham, who supported Musk in his deal to buy Twitter, said on Sunday he will take a break from Twitter and asked followers to find a link to his Mastodon account on his personal web page.
Mastodon is a social network that has been touted a s a Twitter alternative.
Twitter suspended Graham's account after his post, but later reinstated the account.
Musk's poll is the latest twist in his chaotic reign as Twitter CEO since October, which includes rapid firings of top management and thousands of employees, seesawing on how much to charge for the social media firm's subscription service Twitter Blue, and reinstating banned accounts, including that of former U.S. President Donald Trump.
By Sunday, Musk said he would put all Twitter policy changes to vote via public polls.
Meanwhile, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Inc investors are worried that Musk, a self-confessed "nanomanager" who has been personally involved in working-level decisions from car styling to supply chain issues, is distracted at a critical time for the world's largest electric-vehicle maker.
Tesla shares gave up some of their premarket gains and opened up about 2% at $152.90. They have lost nearly 60% of their value this year.
Analysts at Oppenheimer downgraded Tesla, saying the negative sentiment on Twitter could linger long term and become an overhang on Tesla.
"If he (Musk) does decide to step down, that could inject Tesla shares with a temporary shot of optimism, amid hopes he might finally pay the carmaker the attention it needs," Susannah Streeter, an investment and market analyst with Hargreaves Lansdown, said.
Musk said last month he had too much work on his plate and would reduce his time at Twitter, while eventually finding a new leader to run the social media company.
"THERE IS NO SUCCESSOR"
Replying to one Twitter user's comment on a possible change in CEO, Musk said on Sunday "There is no successor".
"No one wants the job who can actually keep Twitter alive."
Musk, who was seen at the soccer World Cup final in Qatar on Sunday, has not yet responded to the results of Monday's poll. Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"Elon" and "CEO of Twitter" were among the trending topics on the social media platform on Monday.
Separately, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren raised concerns that Tesla's board of directors has failed to meet its legal responsibility to protect Tesla in the aftermath of Musk's acquisition of Twitter. "(There is) way too much uncertainty," Tesla investor Matthew Tuttle of Tuttle Capital Management said, adding that he planned to sell most Tesla shares that he bought on Friday.
"A CEO is supposed to make decisions that are in the best interest of a company and shareholders, not based on what random people on Twitter think."