Musk indeed tweeted a thread about "how safe Tesla cars are" on that date, though it was not the beginning of a self-authored thread that he later deleted. It was a quote retweet of a thread from Tesla's company Twitter account. There is no evidence that either account deleted the thread.
On March 21, 2023, an image spread on Twitter and Reddit that claimed to show evidence that Tesla and Twitter CEO Elon Musk tweeted and then deleted a thread consisting of tweets about how safe Tesla cars are. Though he indeed tweeted (or retweeted, more accurately) such a thread on that date, it is not true that he deleted it.
The image supposedly depicted a tweet by Musk — "Thread on how safe Tesla cars are" — followed by at least four tweets marked "unavailable" that he had supposedly deleted. User @SaeedDiCaprio captioned the image, "still can't believe this happened," adding in a reply, "I really have the most perfectly timed screenshot of all time."
"This tweet is unavailable" is an error message that typically appears when a tweet has been deleted by the original poster.
Musk indeed tweeted a "Thread on how safe Tesla cars are" on Jan. 7, 2023, like the screenshot claimed. However, that tweet was not the beginning of a self-authored thread that he later deleted. It was a quote retweet sharing a thread from Tesla's official company Twitter account.
We came to that conclusion by checking Musk's Twitter account and finding a post with a date that matched that in the screenshot: Jan. 7, 2023. We saw it was a quote retweet of a thread originally posted by Tesla. Using PolitiTweet, a database of public figures' deleted tweets, we confirmed no tweets were deleted after the initial post.
Thread on how safe Tesla cars are https://t.co/M3Hf3q4kh3
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 7, 2023
Using direct messaging, we reached out to @SaeedDiCaprio to learn the screenshot's origin story. He said he did not create it using digital-editing software, and that it was an authentic depiction of a moment in time on Twitter. "[The] screenshot is real!" @SaeedDiCaprio wrote.
It's possible that the screenshot documented a technical mishap. Twitter has previously suffered glitches wherein users were unable to see images or use links within tweets. Users on the platform have wondered if their tweets have been deleted by the platform in such cases.
When we reached out to Twitter to ask whether the screenshot depicted a technical glitch with Musk's Jan. 7 post, we received a poop emoji automated response, which Musk had announced on March 19 was the Twitter press team's new autoreply. We'll update this fact check if we hear anything more substantive from Twitter.
If you're unsure about whether a claimed post from a public figure is real, one quick way to verify is to go to their social media profile and try to find what they posted at the alleged date and time. Chances are, you'll be able to either confirm the post is real, or find the real post behind the fake claim.