Tech

Elon Musk’s Twitter deal stokes Democrat fears and Republican jubilation

Donald Trump claimed Monday he would not rejoin Twitter even if his account were restored after the company was sold to Elon Musk.

But that didn’t stop widespread concern among Democrats at the possibility that the former US president could yet change his mind amid a broader platform upheaval.

“Everyone should be concerned about this,” said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic strategist. “We’ve seen before the impact Trump could have with his Twitter account, whether it was questioning Barack Obama’s birthplace or dismissing the results of the last election. Imagine what he will do to come back to power in 2022 or 2024 if there is no one to stop him?”

Musk has donated to both major political parties in the US, but the Democrats’ outcry over his proposed purchase of Twitter was accompanied by cheers among Republicans, many of whom viewed the move as a victory for freedom of speech given the Tesla boss’s wish see loosening the content moderation on the platform.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, the controversial Republican congresswoman whose personal account was suspended after multiple violations of Twitter’s disinformation rules, tweeted from her official account before the deal was finalized: “Prepare for a blue tick meltdown @elonmusk seals the deal and I should have my personal Twitter account restored.”

The sale has pushed Musk, who despite describing himself as a “free speech absolutist,” has expressed no explicit political affiliation, into a position that some see as de facto partisanship.

The entrepreneur said his bid was motivated less by profit and more by his vision for the role Twitter could play in society. “It’s not a way to make money,” he said hours after it became public. “My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and inclusive is critical to the future of civilization.”

Conservatives are excited at the prospect of what Musk has described as “broadly inclusive” Twitter, which they say means less conservative accounts will be shut down and a potential opportunity for reinstatement of suspended users like Trump.

Republicans have been bemoaning censorship by major tech platforms for years, notably citing Trump’s suspension of Twitter and Facebook following the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

Marsha Blackburn, Republican Senator from Tennessee, tweeted on Monday: “I’m confident that Elon Musk will help stem Big Tech’s history of censoring users who take a different viewpoint.”

But it’s not just the prospect of reinstatement of high-profile Conservatives that worries Liberals.

Angelo Carusone, the president of the left-leaning non-profit organization Media Matters, said: “My worst fear is not that Donald Trump will come back, but that social media companies on a larger scale will start to fill their platforms with misinformation again. We’ve already seen where that gets us – it makes another January 6th more likely.”

For many left-wing politicians, the sale caps a tumultuous relationship with Musk, who is no stranger to political battles, many of whom fought on the platform he is now set to acquire.

In recent years he has publicly pushed back against Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts, after she claimed he didn’t pay taxes; compared Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, to Adolf Hitler on his Covid-19 policies; and fought with US President Joe Biden about electric vehicle policy.

Warren tweeted Monday: “This deal is dangerous for our democracy. Billionaires like Elon Musk play by different rules than everyone else, accumulating power for their own benefit. We need a wealth tax and strict rules to hold big tech accountable.”

If Musk tries to give more weight to conservative voices, it could have a significant impact on the platform. Data from the Pew Research Center View Twitter Users tend to be younger, more educated and more liberal than the rest of the population. They are also more likely to be opinion leaders, whether politicians, journalists or prominent business people.

Aaron Smith, director of data labs at Pew, said: “Twitter is a place where journalists, politicians and elites come together. It also tends to be dominated by very politically engaged people.”

But despite the conservative tenor of much of Musk’s recent Twitter output, his political contributions do not appear to be those of a purely partisan Republican.

During the 2020 election cycle, he made the maximum personal donation of $2,800 to Republican Senate candidates Thom Tillis of North Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas, and Joni Ernst of Iowa. But he did the same for Democratic Senate candidates Chris Coons of Delaware, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Gary Peters of Michigan, according to Federal Election Commission data.

Musk has made donations to the gubernatorial campaigns of Democrat Gavin Newsom of California — his former home state — and Republican Greg Abbott of Texas, his adopted home since the pandemic.

One of his largest personal donations was a $50,000 check to then-Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s former chief of staff while he was running for re-election as Chicago mayor. Emanuel later selected Musk’s Boring Company to build a high-speed underground transit system connecting downtown Chicago to O’Hare Airport, a project that never came to fruition.

But even as Musk enjoys the political fallout from his successful bid, some in the industry warn it could backfire for him given his other business interests.

Nu Wexler, who has worked in political communications for Twitter, Facebook and Google, said: “Social media tends to dominate political debates in Washington. Musk may discover that meetings and interviews about SpaceX and Tesla will now take place on Twitter.”



Elon Musk’s Twitter deal stokes Democrat fears and Republican jubilation Source link Elon Musk’s Twitter deal stokes Democrat fears and Republican jubilation

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