Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, has come under fire for sharing a meme featuring a Nazi soldier as a joke about technological progress.
The Tesla and SpaceX billionaire tweeted a black and white photo of a solider carrying a cage full of carrier pigeons on his back, with the caption “3 unread messages” and a red notification badge superimposed onto the cage as if it were a smartphone app.
“How times have changed,” commented Mr Musk, adding: “Back when birds were real…”
But hawk-eyed Twitter users soon pointed out that the photo actually shows a member of the army of Nazi Germany, known as the Wehrmacht, during the invasion of France in May 1940, when portable radios were not yet ubiquitous in war.
The same photo with slightly different colour grading is described on Getty Images as “German Wehrmacht Soldier With Carrier Pigeons”.
Mathias Richel, a German political communications consultant, said: “Isn’t there a better example, Elon? Right now, in the ongoing debate around developments here on Twitter?”
It comes after Mr Musk reportedly sent and then deleted a tweet in which he agreed with a user who had posted a neo-Nazi meme disguised as a quote by the French Enlightenment writer Voltaire.
“So you’re saying that you do not rule over us, but for us. Much wow,” said the Twitter user, attaching an image that quoted Voltaire as saying: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise.”
Mr Musk responded: “That is my goal.”
However, according to The Associated Press, the phase actually came from American white nationalist Kevin Alfred Strom, who used it in 1993 to refer to Jewish people. He would later plead guilty to possession of child sexual abuse images.
In 2017, Mr Strom wrote: “Whoever hijacked my quote and put it over Voltaire’s signature liked what I was saying… he wanted to use the quote. But he didn’t dare attribute it correctly. He didn’t dare make his point with a quote from a known ‘“racist’ or ‘anti-Semite’, no matter how good the quote was.”