Rockstar has updated advice for anyone who's logged on to find their character missing in GTA Online: Do not create a new character.
The company has instructed players who find an empty character slot to return to story mode and then re-enter GTA Online through the pause menu, but only when the Rockstar Cloud Servers are working. If you encounter a message saying the servers are unavailable, keep trying until they're working. Do not continue online with saving disabled, as this may overwrite your character.
"If you have previously created a character but see an empty character selection screen when entering GTA Online, please back out to GTAV Story Mode and try re-entering GTA Online through the pause menu (repeat or wait until Rockstar cloud servers are back up). Do not create a new character in the empty slot where your character should be.
"If you receive the message 'The Rockstar Cloud Servers Are Unavailable', please return to GTAV Story Mode and follow the steps above. Please do not press 'Retry' on the message and do not proceed online with saving disabled, as this may lead to overwriting your existing character."