When Elon Musk struck a deal to buy Twitter on Monday, he promised to restore freedom of speech and debate to the platform, saying it was “the foundation of a functioning democracy”.
Whether a less moderated social network will be a good thing or a bad thing has become a major topic of debate on Twitter itself among influencers and politicians from across the political spectrum.
On the right, the deal was widely celebrated. Mr Musk’s ownership, many conservatives tweeted, heralded a new era of free speech – where topics that were previously moderated could now be aired openly.
Several far-right members have begun testing the limits of a less regulated platform, tweeting criticism of the transgender community, doubting the effectiveness of masks or claiming the 2020 election results were fraudulent – topics that had been moderate by labeling or deleting false information or by suspending the accounts which disseminate it.
“Millions of Americans have been suppressing their thoughts and opinions on this platform for YEARS for fear of being suspended/cancelled,” said John Rich, member of country music duo Big and Rich, said in a tweet which received over 50,000 likes. “I feel like the dam is about to burst.”
Michael Knowles, a conservative podcaster, repeated the false claim on Monday that “the 2020 presidential election was obviously rigged”, receiving over 70,000 likes. Representative Andy Barr, a Republican from Kentucky, mentioned that stories about “Hunter Biden’s laptop or proof that COVID originated in Wuhan lab” could no longer be censored.
And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican known for her conspiracy theories, asked that several accounts banned — including those of former President Donald J. Trump, conspiratorial podcaster Alex Jones, and even his own personal account — be revived.
His sentiment resonated on the platform among far-right members who were banned from Twitter after violating its terms of service. Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser who is now aligned with the QAnon conspiracy theory, reposted a message on his Telegram account suggesting that Twitter could be used to recruit – or “wake up” – others to their cause.
“It’s mind blowing,” reads the post, which was originally posted by a user, named BioClandestine, who has also been banned from Twitter. “The impact of the Twitter takeover is going to be colossal when it comes to revival standards. It’s already started.”
On the left, much of the conversation focused on how the deal illustrated the outsized power of billionaires.
“Something is seriously wrong in this country when one person can buy a social media company on a whim for $44 billion while others have to skip meals to feed their children,” said the Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island who supports antitrust reforms. target tech giants, in a tweet. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts mentioned Mr. Musk’s purchase was a sign that the United States needed to institute a wealth tax.
Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, said that “protecting the privacy of Americans must be a condition of any sale. Former antitrust officials said they believe regulators will look closely at the deal, but may struggle to find a cause to block it since Twitter does not compete with Mr. Musk’s other major holdings. .