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Fear And Celebration On Twitter as Musk Takes The Reins

Fear And Celebration On Twitter as Musk Takes The Reins

Elon Musk is buying out Twitter and much like the days of the Trump victory in Washington, followers are already announcing plans to “move to Canada” in what is likely a symbolic gesture of frustration and fear over what is to come. 

Following Twitter’s acceptance of Musk’s $44-billion acquisition bid for “free speech”,  some high-profile accounts reported losing thousands of followers, while those of the political right gained significantly. 

Nonetheless, former U.S. President Donald Trump, banned from the platform in early 2021, is still holding a grudge.  

Musk, who rarely holds back on his Twitter thoughts, said that central to his vision for the platform was for it to be an “inclusive arena for free speech” hoping that even his "worst critics" will stay on the platform "because that is what free speech means".

However, hashtags such as #LeaveTwitter and #GoodByeTwitter were trending following the Musk announcement.

Former U.S. President Obama, who has more than 131 million followers on the platform, lost 300,000 of them nearly overnight. Even the Auschwitz Memorial Twitter account said it lost 35,000 followers.

Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, gun control activist David Hogg and others all lost some tens of thousands of followers. The only outlier on this side of the fence was U.S. President Joe Biden, who saw a 26,000-increase in followers.

Elsewhere, there were plenty of gains, suggesting an overnight shift in the Twitterscape.

Controversial Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene gained nearly 100,000 to her official congressional Twitter account. Her personal account was permanently suspended earlier this year for spreading Covid-19 misinformation.

Other conservatives such as Ted Cruz, Newt Gingrich, and Laura Ingraham, also gained followers. USA Today tracked that some 72% of the Republican accounts gained Twitter followers just on Monday.

Elsewhere, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist, also gained about 90,000 followers.

Donald Trump Jr. gained nearly 120,000 new followers but his father announced that he would not be returning to the platform after he was banned following the January 6th Capitol riot over concerns he would use the platform to incite further violence.

Instead, Trump said he was sticking to his own app, TRUTH Social, the Trump Media & Technology Group Twitter clone, which was formally launched last month.

“Twitter is becoming very boring. They’ve gotten rid of a lot of good voices on Twitter, a lot of their conservative voices,” Donald Trump told Fox News.. “I hope Elon buys Twitter because he’ll make improvements to it and he is a good man, but I am going to be staying on TRUTH.”

Conservatives have long complained that major social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube show bias against the right. In the last couple of years, dozens of former administration officials, conservative commentators and journalists were banned from social media.

Those include former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, rightwing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, rightwing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, and others. A Pew Research Center 2020 survey found that 90% of Republicans believed views were being censored.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who was banned from the platform last month for violating the platform's rules for hateful content, returned to Twitter hours after Musk's deal was finalized with the post “We’re back.”

For those who left Twitter or are planning to follow Musk’s move, presuming that they will move to some other platform, it is not going to be that easy. Twitter has more than 436 million users. Discord, with its 300 million users, is the closest to it. Others are Reddit, Instagram, TikTok, CounterSocial, and others. Mastodon, a Twitter clone with only 670,000 users, reported “an influx of approx. 41,287 users” after Musk’s acquisition.

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