Elon Musk’s Twitter: Enabling Right-Wing Voices and Alienating Liberals?

Twitter, the social media platform owned by Elon Musk, has become a battleground for political polarization. Musk, who describes himself as a “free speech absolutist,” has sought to diversify Twitter’s audience by reinstating previously banned accounts, including that of former President Donald Trump. However, Musk’s actions have led to accusations that he is enabling right-wing voices and allowing more controversial speech. While Musk has been promoting right-wing powerhouses on Twitter, he has not made any similar public partnerships with liberal politicians or left-leaning media outlets. This has resulted in some liberal users feeling alienated. A recent Pew study shows that Twitter users who identify as Democrats were almost 10 percent more likely to say they would stop using the platform in a year.[0]

Musk has been allowing neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hateful accounts back on his platform under his “freedom of speech but not freedom of reach” approach to content moderation.[0] Although Musk claims that Twitter does not endorse hateful content and will not amplify it in people’s feeds, the fact that these accounts are allowed on the platform has turned off some users. However, conservative accounts have embraced Musk’s new hate speech policies and paid their way into being verified under Musk’s new check-mark system, which allows their content to show up higher in replies and comments.[0] Simultaneously, Musk has removed verification check marks from numerous media outlets, journalists, and politicians who decline to pay for verification, resulting in Twitter’s recently verified group appearing predominantly right-wing.[0]

In May 2023, Florida Gov.[1] Ron DeSantis announced his 2024 presidential campaign on Twitter Spaces, Twitter’s audio-only platform, during a livestream event hosted by Musk and tech entrepreneur David Sacks.[2] However, the event was marred by technical difficulties, leading to criticism from both sides of the political aisle.[3] The incident was a blow to Musk, who could have been seen as a new Republican kingmaker if the event had gone as planned.[4] DeSantis chose to avoid conventional media tactics when announcing his campaign, such as a probable interview with Fox News.[4]

Musk’s actions have led to accusations of enabling right-wing voices and allowing more controversial speech. [0] However, Musk seems to hold on to the digital town square dream despite his failure to bring that vision to fruition.[0] Twitter has become a battleground for political polarization, and Musk’s actions have only exacerbated the situation.

0. “Why Ron DeSantis and Tucker Carlson love Elon Musk and Twitter” Vox.com, 24 May. 2023, https://www.vox.com/technology/2023/5/24/23735940/elon-musk-ron-desantis-twitter-tucker-carlson-2024-election

1. “Ron DeSantis downplays his abortion record in 2024 campaign launch” MSNBC, 25 May. 2023, https://www.msnbc.com/opinion/msnbc-opinion/ron-desantis-2024-announcement-abortion-rcna86103

2. “DeSantis after Twitter fiasco: ‘Not a big social media guy’” The Hill, 26 May. 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/4022045-desantis-after-twitter-fiasco-not-a-big-social-media-guy

3. “What went wrong at Ron DeSantis’s US presidential campaign launch?” The Guardian US, 25 May. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/may/25/what-happened-ron-desantis-us-presidential-campaign-launch-twitter-elon-musk

4. “5 things to know for May 25: Ron DeSantis, Russia, Debt limit, January 6, Florida” CNN, 25 May. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/25/us/five-things-may-25-trnd/index.html

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