Republicans predict Elon Musk will unleash 'free speech' on Twitter while Democrats panic over misinformation

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  • Musk's Twitter purchase has political insiders abuzz over how the social media giant will change.

  • Republicans are largely celebrating the purchase, saying it'll be a bellwether for free speech.

  • Democrats worry about the proliferation of falsehoods and hate speech.

Republicans and Democrats expect that major changes are coming to Twitter under its new wealthy owner, Elon Musk, who has pledged a dedication to "free speech" once he takes the company private.

Many conservatives cheered the acquisition by the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, who is also the world's richest man, saying that Twitter has been unfairly censoring their speech. Democrats, however, have long pushed social media giants to go in the opposite direction — to be more strict about clamping down on falsehoods, hate speech, and language that incites violence.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat of Massachusetts, said Monday that the purchase posed a threat to democracy.

But Republican stars and insiders are thrilled that Twitter's new owner has hinted at a more hands-off approach, and like that he has been critical of content moderation in the past.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that his administration was "100% supportive" of the purchase, and criticized Twitter for censoring the New York Post's reporting on emails from Hunter Biden's laptop ahead of the 2020 election. Biden's allies called the emails on the laptop "Russian disinformation," but in recent weeks the New York Times and Washington Post have confirmed the emails were authentic.

"My hope is that with Elon Musk taking this private he's going to open it up and let people be able to speak," DeSantis said at an event in Spring Hill, Florida.

Alex Bruesewitz, co-founder and CEO of X Strategies, which represents pro-Trump Republicans running for office, told Insider in an interview that he "couldn't be more excited" about Musk's purchase given the billionaire's comments about free speech. Many conservatives who'd been kicked off Twitter might be allowed to return, he said.

"If we return to social media access our ideas spread further and are more popular, and we have more engagement," said Bruesewitz, who is also the author of "Winning the Social Media War."

But Jason Miller, the CEO of social media platform GETTR, was less certain that the Musk purchase alone could change Twitter's culture.

He told Insider in an interview that Musk would find it "easier to land a rocket on Mars than change the political nature of Twitter" because people in the company — from moderators to engineers — "use political discrimination to pick winners and losers in the free speech debate."

"Anyone who supports free speech should be happy Musk is trying to fix Twitter — but it's more about whether Twitter is fixable," he said.

Miller also detailed his thoughts about the purchase in an opinion piece he published on the War Room, the website founded by former Trump advisor Steve Bannon. GETTR is considered to be an alternative competitor to Twitter that has attracted conservatives worried about limits on speech.

The Twitter page of Elon Musk is seen on the screen of a computer in Sausalito, California, on Monday, April 25, 2022. On Monday, Musk reached an agreement to buy Twitter for about $44 billion.
The Twitter page of Elon Musk is seen on the screen of a computer in Sausalito, California, on Monday, April 25, 2022. On Monday, Musk reached an agreement to buy Twitter for about $44 billion.Eric Risberg/AP Photo

Democrats worry about Trump getting his handle back

Musk's personal political leanings are something of a mystery. He's described often as a libertarian, and in a 2018 tweet Musk wrote that he was "registered independent & politically moderate." In the past, Twitter employees have overwhelmingly donated to Democrats over Republicans, according to data compiled by the nonpartisan research organization OpenSecrets.

A big question that has also been swirling in political circles is whether Musk would reinstate former President Donald Trump's Twitter account. Twitter booted Trump after a mob of his supporters attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

"Elon Musk himself has been very difficult to decipher when it comes to what his ultimate objective is, and certainly indicating that Donald Trump may be back on the platform could be a provocative strategy to try to move the Board of Directors of Twitter in one way or the other," said Luis Alvarado, a Republican political strategist.

Trump has said he won't go back to Twitter even if allowed, and will instead begin communicating through Truth Social, his own struggling social media network.

But Bruesewitz said he hoped Trump would reconsider, and provided Insider with a copy of a tweet he wrote that Trump had signed. Such gestures showed Trump was still following the conversation on Twitter, he said.

Former President Donald Trump is no longer on Twitter but has printed out people's tweets and send notes of support.
Former President Donald Trump is no longer on Twitter but has printed out people's tweets and send notes of support.Courtesy Alex Bruesewitz

"It's the No. 1 platform," Bruesewitz said. "It drives the news and the conversation." It was important not to siphon off people to different social media platforms based on their political leanings, he added.

"I don't like the echo chambers," Bruesewitz said. "I like the combativeness of Twitter and being able to push back against people's ideas.

But Democrats want Trump to stay off the platform because they say they see Trump as a rabid source of falsehoods on everything from election fraud to COVID-19.

"A lot of fairly dangerous and misleading sources of information might be allowed back on which could be really bad for not just Democrats but for society in general," said Tim Lim, a longtime Democratic strategist. "So whether it's vaccine misinformation, or whether it's actual political disinformation or misinformation in general, it's going to be something that we have to be on the lookout for."

The move could potentially hurt Democrats, he said.

"We're not in the business of peddling misinformation. We're not in the business of pushing hate speech," he said. "I hope he doesn't do that, but when it comes to Elon Musk, my expectations aren't that high."

Read the original article on Business Insider