WASHINGTON, November 4 (Sputnik) – Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter fueled concerns about the spread of disinformation ahead of the midterms, but experts doubt there will be any immediate changes to the company’s content regulations that will alter the outcome of the vote.
Musk finally closed the $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter last week, coming shortly before voters head to the polls in the November 8 midterms to determine who controls
Musk immediately raised concerns after the takeover with vows to reinstate users banned for violating Twitter policies and his imposition of an $8-per-month verification fee. The fee would also allow users to post long-form video and give them priority in searches.
Trump allies in Congress such as Representatives Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Lauren Boebert praised Twitter’s new ownership, marking it as a big win for free speech in the United States. Boebert wrote on Twitter that a lot of suppressed truths on social media and in Congress will come to light in the next two years.
Several pro-Trump conservatives experienced a surge in new followers on Twitter after Musk took over the company, although there’s no evidence to support it was due to
official acquisition, media reported.
Republican gubernatorial candidate in Arizona Kari Lake gained 18,000 followers a day after Musk officially acquired Twitter. Conservative commentator Candace Owens
gained 3,700 followers and Boebert gained 18,679 followers over the same period. Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Republicans posted a video on Twitter hinting that
President Donald Trump would soon return.
Musk did say Twitter, before lifting bans, must make the reinstatement process clear, which could take a few weeks.
TOO LATE TO THE GAME
University of Florida social media expert Andrew Selepak does not believe there is enough time for Musk’s new policies to alter the outcome of the election. People like
Trump, for example, are not going to be back online before the midterm.
“I don’t foresee in the near term any major changes… they’re not going to radically redesign the platform in some way that it’s unrecognizable from what it is now. He’s not
going to bring back disappearing content,” Selepak told Sputnik.
The midterms, he added, are too close for there to suddenly be a massive spread of misinformation on Twitter that may impact the election, especially considering how
many people have already voted early.
However, Selepak said the billionaire entrepreneur could adjust the platform’s algorithm and eliminate some of the bots, which should allow greater open access for anybody to
be heard as opposed to somebody who simply purchased a larger share of the voice.
Lesley University Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies Donna Halper said the change in leadership at Twitter could have affected the midterms if it
occurred six months ago.
And, although Trump appears unlikely to abandon Truth Social, even his reinstatement would come too late in the game, Halper added.
“I’m not sure it will change anyone’s opinions at this point,” Halper said.
Michael Rectenwald, former New York University professor of global studies and author of “Google Archipelago,” told Sputnik that Twitter could still prove beneficial to
Republicans in these remaining days ahead of the vote.
“This move could help Republican voters’ messaging and also allow otherwise banned tweets find expression on the platform,” Rectenwald said. “If Musk had owned Twitter
in 2020, for example, the Hunter Biden laptop story would not have been blacked out across all social media. The election might have turned out differently, although serious
questions still remain about its legitimacy.”
USER EXODUS UNLIKELY IN SHORT-TERM
Many users on Twitter have threatened to leave the platform over concerns the social media site may spread hate or misinformation under Musk, although experts said many
will probably stay, especially in light of lack of options.
“First, based on comments I’ve been reading, most Twitter users are concerned, but for now, they are going to stick around; they will wait and see what happens,” Halper said.
“I doubt there will be a mass exodus right away.”
Although there are many anti-Musk comments on Twitter at the moment, it’s important to point out that there were negative comments about the previous Twitter regime as
well, Halper said.
Keith Preston, anarchist theoretician and analyst, told Sputnik that the problem with those Twitter users who find Musk objectionable may have nowhere else to go besides
Facebook (banned in Russia as an extremist organization).
“There could be a surge of interest in Facebook, which has the kind of strict moderation policies that Musk’s opponents support, which Musk says he disapproves of, but I
suspect the liberals threatening to leave Twitter are like the liberals who threatened to move to Canada if Trump was elected in 2016,” Preston said. “They talk a good game,
but nothing ever comes of it.”
On the other hand, Musk is also unlikely to push it too far, given his focus on the bottom line.
Halper pointed out how the EU warned Twitter must follow the bloc’s new digital rules, which Musk may be hesitant to challenge as he seeks to make the company profitable.
Musk sees himself as a provocateur and he seems to enjoy picking fights with tech billionaires or executives from various organizations, but it can be time consuming, Halper said.
“In the end, he still has to find a way to make Twitter profitable and he still has to observe the current rules – whether he likes them or not,” Halper said. “My sense is that
he’ll complain and try to resist, and he may advocate forcefully for changing those rules, but being a shrewd businessman, he will pick which battles are worth his time, which
battles he thinks he can win, and which ones will not be productive use of his time.
Categories: Tech Censorship