Twitter CEO Elon Musk is catering to far-right accounts promoting bigotry, extremism, and misinformation
Within his first few days of owning Twitter, Elon Musk has demonstrated his allegiance to right-wing bad actors, as he determines how to replace existing moderation practices. Despite a supposed commitment to fairness, accuracy, and “free speech,” Musk is regularly using the platform to interact with right-wing media figures responsible for spreading bigotry, extremism, and misinformation.
Musk has finally taken control of Twitter following a months-long attempt to back out of the deal. The self-proclaimed “Chief Twit” has already shaken up the company by laying off nearly 50% of his workforce, revealing plans to charge users to be verified on the platform, and suspending accounts for impersonating and parodying him.
Musk and his chaotic control have been celebrated by the right, as he has vowed to rid the platform of supposed “censorship" and suggested he would reinstate previously banned users. Even though Musk has maintained that Twitter should be “politically neutral,” today he encouraged people to vote for Republicans in the midterm elections.
And though he assured advertisers and civil rights leaders that Twitter would continue to enforce its content moderation policies, Musk then eliminated around 50% of its workforce — including 15% of people who work on content moderation teams. Over 60 civil rights and civil society groups, including Media Matters, have since called on advertisers to pause their spending on the platform until it is able to protect users and enforce its own platform policies.
In these early days of his tumultuous takeover, Musk has appealed to far-right extremists by engaging with right-wing accounts, directly interacting with known right-wing media bad actors at least 24 times since October 27. These extremists include the president of Judicial Watch, Tom Fitton, who helped former President Donald Trump devise a plan to undermine the 2020 election, and Turning Point USA’s self-proclaimed “Godfather of the Conservative Internet” Benny Johnson. Fitton, Johnson, and other extremists listed here have pushed conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, spread health misinformation, particularly about COVID-19 and monkeypox, and slandered LGBTQ people. Other right-wing personalities Musk interacted with pushed multiple conspiracy theories about the attack on Paul Pelosi, which Musk himself briefly promoted.
- Right-wing commentator Tom Fitton tweeted, “I wonder if @ElonMusk’s @Twitter has tortious interference claims against the Left activist groups which are causing damaging advertiser boycotts of the platform?” Musk responded, “We do.”
- Right-wing social media influencer Ian Miles Cheong tweeted, “Can’t think of a better one [mission] for this platform. Where Wikipedia and the mainstream media have failed, Twitter must succeed at all costs,'' to which Musk responded, “At the end of the day, if Twitter is indeed the most accurate source of information, more people will use it.”
- Musk responded to right-wing commentator Benny Johnson’s tweet about Kathy Griffin’s suspension from Twitter, commenting, “Actually, she was suspended for impersonating a comedian.” He then added, “But if she really wants her account back, she can have it” and “For $8.”
- Cheong praised Musk’s decision to change the “Birdwatch” feature to “Community Notes,” saying, “I had no idea what Birdwatch even was and had to look it up the first time it was announced. Community Notes is straightforward, to the point. No explanation needed.” Musk responded, “Exactly.”
- After right-wing account Catturd expressed excitement at Twitter’s new impersonation policy, saying, “Hell yes! And that should apply to the Hollywood crowd just like us average Joes,” Musk responded, “No exceptions.”
- After Cheong recommended that Twitter incorporate “its own rival to Substack called Revue,” Musk responded, “Absolutely.”
- Musk agreed with Cheong after he proclaimed, “It's time to stop appeasing the activists because they will stop at nothing to hurt Twitter regardless of what you do.”
- After Fitton tweeted, “@Twitter censorship and suppression of criticism of post-Election Day vote collecting and/or counting is election interference-as it advances a highly partisan, ideological, and legally controversial position that can affect election outcomes,” Musk responded, “Twitter will not censor accurate information about anything.”
- Mike Davis, founder of right-wing organization Article III Project, encouraged Musk to name the “advertisers who are succumbing to the advertiser boycotts. So we can counter-boycott them,” to which Musk responded, “Thank you. A thermonuclear name & shame is exactly what will happen if this continues.”
- Musk joined Johnson in mocking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-NY) claims that she had been shadow-banned on the app, stating, "What can I say? It was a naked abuse of power.”
- After Fitton claimed that unlike the “left,” “conservatives have a few social media accounts and a handful of groups fighting for on-line free speech,” Musk agreed, saying, “That assessment is more accurate than most people realize.”
- Musk reacted with a laugh and ghost emoji to Fox News Radio’s Jimmy Failla, who commented about celebrities leaving Twitter, “Please stop telling us about these celebrities leaving Twitter because of @elonmusk - you’re gonna crash Google from everyone looking up who they are.”
- Fitton quote-tweeted a photo of tweets from the right-wing account Election Integrity Network that were labeled as “sensitive content,” asking Musk to investigate this issue. Musk responded, “It’s the user’s own setting that did this.”
- Johnson tweeted about the importance of including conservative voices on the Twitter safety board (and also claimed that anyone who “had a role in the censorship of Hunter Biden’s laptop story is irredeemably compromised”) to which Musk responded, “Absolutely agreed that the Twitter safety board should have people from all viewpoints.”
- In response to right-wing influencer Jenna Ellis, who tweeted about Arizona Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem getting banned ahead of the election, Musk tweeted, “Looking into it.”
- Musk responded to Fitton about alleged censorship of the right during elections, saying, “I will look into this. Twitter should be even-handed, favoring neither side.”
- Musk responded to Catturd, who accused Twitter of shadow-banning his account, saying, “I will be digging in more today.”
- Musk responded to a right-wing group Canada Proud about a “censorship bill” from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying, “First I’ve heard.”
- Musk responded to right-wing influencer Mikhaila Peterson, who asked if her dad Jordan Peterson could rejoin the platform, saying, “Anyone suspended for minor & dubious reasons will be freed from Twitter jail.”
- Cosmin Dzsurdzsa, who formerly worked for the conservative Post Millennial, tweeted, “Make Twitter have different game modes @elonmusk: PvP Twitter is where you can start beef and mob each other on verified personal accounts. Roleplaying Twitter is for anon accounts only with minimal moderation. Normal Twitter is for everyone else with heavy moderation.” Musk replied, “Something like this makes sense.”