Elon Musk is, in many ways, a fan of internet jokes and memes. And amidst his takeover of the social media platform Twitter, some mainstream media outlets ended up falling for a popular and pretty raunchy internet joke — hook, line, and sinker.
Musk’s Twitter takeover was not absent of drama, especially after the Tesla CEO terminated three executives and a senior employee. These included Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, and Chief Legal Counsel Vijaya Gadde. Agrawal and Segal were reportedly escorted out of Twitter’s headquarters.
Amidst Friday’s events, two men carrying boxes were seen standing near the entrance to Twitter’s San Francisco building. The men, who introduced themselves as “Rahul Ligma” and “Daniel Johnson,” claimed that they were data engineers who were just terminated. This caught the attention of several media outlets.
CNBC reporter Deirdre Bosa posted about the men on Twitter, noting that one appeared “visibly shaken” while explaining his sudden job loss. Bosa also noted that Johnson owned a Tesla and was worrying about how he’d pay off his car. Articles about the alleged firings eventually prompted media coverage, some from notable companies like CNBC and Bloomberg.
Inasmuch as the events were compelling, however, there was one issue: Neither Ligma nor Johnson were actually Twitter employees. The men’s names alone were a huge clue, with Ligma being a direct reference to an “internet hoax designed to elicit the response’ lick my b*lls’ from people who are in on the joke,” according to The Verge.
Elon Musk appears to have appreciated the joke, posting on Twitter that “Ligma” and “Johnson” “had it coming.” Musk also made fun of the media coverage of the joke, noting that CNBC exercised “ace reporting” when they covered the story.