Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s Twitter purchase yesterday has sent shockwaves throughout the world, with questions still lingering over how Musk might twist the social media platform and company in his image.
Though Musk is more in line with an “utopian anarchist” (re: libertarian) philosophy, he has previously both caught flak and gained support from politicians on both sides of the aisle for various statements and projects. However, his $US44 ($61) billion purchase of Twitter has many Republicans rallying and Democrats grinding their teeth over the idea of Musk promoting “free speech” on the platform. The Tesla CEO has called the platform “the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.”
Many right wing figureheads and politicos have previously complained of silencing, suspensions, and bans for breaking Twitter’s terms of service over hate speech and misinformation. More than that, active conspiracy theorists are celebrating the buy, hoping they might be reinstated onto the platform.
But while the few Democrats to speak publicly about the purchase have focused on fears of more misinformation being spread on the platform, Republicans who have previously run afoul of Twitter’s (rather lax) rules about misinformation and hate speech were jumping up and down at the thought of being able to post whatever they want without being hamstrung by any private censors.
President Joe Biden
Biden has been low-key on the Twitter acquisition, but past efforts show he is not jazzed about the idea of potentially more disinformation.
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki did not offer direct comment on the move, but instead made comment about the routine disinformation occurring online, telling Reuters “The president has long talked about his concerns about the power of social media platforms, including Twitter and others, to spread misinformation.”
While Musk, a “free speech absolutist” has talked about opening the floodgates for any and all people to express themselves, whether or not that speech is harmful or damaging, the president has so far failed to enact change on Section 230, which shields companies from liability over content posted by users.
CNBC reported based on unnamed sources in Biden’s circle that the president is concerned former President Donald Trump might return to Twitter, which he was banned from for inciting violence over the Jan. 6 2021 insurrection. On the other hand, Trump has said he will not return even if his ban is lifted.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D)
Warren tweeted Monday evening that the Twitter deal “is dangerous for our democracy.”
The senator, who has long railed against the wealth of America’s big money elite, added “Billionaires like Elon Musk play by a different set of rules than everyone else, accumulating power for their own gain. We need a wealth tax and strong rules to hold big tech accountable.”
Warren has beefed with Musk in the past over claims that Musk paid nothing in income taxes over several years. Reports have shown that in years like 2018, Musk paid much less than the going tax rate. Musk limply insulted Warren, calling her “an angry mum” who “yells at everyone for no reason” and later pointed to the fact he paid $US11 ($15) billion in taxes from selling Tesla shares in 2021, not mentioning that taxes on stock sales are much less than the regular rate of income tax, and that his number does not account for the many years before he paid much less.
U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R)
Blackburn tweeted “This is a great day to be conservative on Twitter” in response to Musk buying Twitter. The senator from Tennessee is a big critic of President Biden and has been mocked on Twitter before for posting that “Tennesseans want a wall on our southern border.”
Whether she was referring to her home state or the country at large, she has claimed Twitter has tried to censor her before, specifically pointing to Twitter banning a campaign video that included her saying she “stopped the sale of baby body parts,” referring to her actions targeting Planned Parenthood. The sale refers to a long-debunked story based on edited videos that claimed Planned Parenthood was selling parts of aborted fetuses. Despite being markedly untrue, the story has since been used by conservative politicians to drum up anger from the anti-abortion crowd.
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R)
The Ohio representative has been offering commentary throughout the whole purchase process. He and other conservatives were ready to make a big deal out of Musk’s purchase not going through, having previously demanded that Twitter’s board preserve all records of negotiations.
It’s interesting to consider how on sites like Gab, which have even less content moderation tools than Twitter, misinformation spread about Jordan’s account being banned earlier this year. While this proved untrue, the fact that such easily verifiable information still became a small, but noticeable conservative rallying cry in some circles makes arguments against censorship somewhat two-faced.
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R)
Boebert tweeted Monday “@Elon Musk now literally owns the libs.”
The representative from Colorado has had her own problems on Twitter, however. Despite efforts to “own the libs” she created a self-own when she failed to spell Mickey Mouse’s name correctly in a Tweet about the Disney corporation coming out against Florida’s recent anti-LGBT legislation. She has struggled to come up with anything that really “owns” anyone, such as when she tried her hand at wordplay, calling herself “non-Bidenary.”
She has also been previously banned for a short time on Twitter. The social media platform said she spread disinformation about the 2020 election in January last year, though her account was quickly brought back online. She then offered a very dystopian view of the ban, saying “What about the thousands of Americans who have been banned and are never heard from again?” As if not being on Twitter amounts to falling down a deep, dark hole where your “hot takes” will forever echo into nothingness.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R)
Despite her personal account being banned from the platform, Georgia representative Taylor Greene posted on her government Twitter “Prepare for blue check mark full scale meltdown after @elonmusk seals the deal and I should get my personal Twitter account restored.”
Taylor Green’s twitter account was banned in January for repeatedly posting vaccine misinformation, including her saying the vaccine led to “extremely high amounts of Covid vaccine deaths,” which has long been proved untrue. Taylor Green ran afoul of Twitter’s five-strike system, which ups the severity of punishment for each subsequent strike against the account.
She has used her professional account much in the same way as her personal, and has devoted time to attacking Twitter for her ban.
She likely has bigger things to worry about than her Twitter account. She has been questioned about her involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection, which could potentially limit her ability to run for reelection. Of course, giving her the personal account back might help her increase the reach and spread of her campaign ads.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R)
DeSantis has been chomping at the bit to see Musk take control of the social media platform, and unlike the Disney fairies who will likely never grant him another wish, Musk was more free to let his dreams come true.
The governor said during a televised press conference that “It seems like over the last five or six years, these big tech companies, including Twitter, have gone from open platforms to being enforcers of the narrative.”
Twitter has previously banned DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw for, in now-deleted tweets, asking her followers to “drag” an Associated Press reporter for writing about how DeSantis was promoting a company’s Covid antibody treatment that he was also investing big money into.
Before news of the sale went live, DeSantis wrote on Twitter that “@elonmusk’s offer to buy Twitter is a good deal for shareholders and raises the prospect that the platform will be a place where free speech can thrive, not a tool for narrative enforcement.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R)
In the hours after the news of the Twitter purchase dropped, Abbott swung onto twitter to ask “@elonmusk. Bring Twitter to Texas to join Tesla, SpaceX & the Boring company.”
Abbott is apparently hoping the Tesla founder will do something similar to his previous move from California to Texas, centering all his businesses in the Lone Star state. Musk saved a lot of money in taxes thanks to the move away from California’s bay area. His operations there include the massive Gigafactory in Austin.
Twitter is currently headquartered in San Francisco, California. The new Twitter owner has previously complained about Silicon Valley’s dominance of the tech world, telling the Wall Street Journal in 2020 “Silicon Valley, or the Bay Area, has too much influence on the world, in my opinion.”