High-profile Republicans gain followers in first weeks of Musk’s reign

cigaretteman

HR King
May 29, 2001
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High-profile Republican members of Congress gained tens of thousands of Twitter followers in the first few weeks of Elon Musk’s reign over the social media network, while their Democratic counterparts experienced a decline, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) all lost about 100,000 Twitter followers in the first three weeks of Musk’s ownership of Twitter, while Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio) gained more than 300,000 each.

It’s difficult to tell exactly why follower counts go up and down, and the counts are often affected by Twitter banning bot accounts en masse. Not everyone following a specific politician is a supporter.
Musk’s ‘free speech’ agenda dismantles safety work at Twitter, insiders say
Still, the pattern suggests that tens of thousands of liberals may be leaving the site while conservatives are joining or becoming more active, shifting the demographics of the site under Musk’s ownership. The changes are in line with a trend that began in April, when Musk announced his intention to buy the company.






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On average, Republicans gained 8,000 followers and Democrats lost 4,000. For its analysis, The Post analyzed data from ProPublica’s Represent tool, which tracks congressional Twitter activity.
Musk and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment. On Saturday, Musk said he would support Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis if he ran for president in 2024.
‘Opening the gates of hell’: Musk says he will revive banned accounts
Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion late last month having pledged to bring his vision of free speech absolutism to the site. The day he took over, he said Twitter wouldn’t become “a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!” But users immediately started testing the boundaries of the new site under Musk, prompting hate speech to briefly surge.

Since then, Musk launched and rolled back Twitter Blue Verified, a $7.99 monthly membership that puts a check mark next to any account that pays. The move prompted an explosion of fake accounts. Musk also fired about half the staff, and required the rest of his workers to pledge to work long hours or leave the company, significantly reducing the number of people who are policing the site.


Musk also has restored several major rule-breaking accounts, including former president Donald Trump’s, following an unrepresentative and unscientific Twitter poll. On Thursday, after a similar poll, he said he would grant “general amnesty” for all banned accounts that didn’t post spam or break the law.
Advertisers have been fleeing, raising doubts about the site’s ability to make money. More than a third of Twitter’s top 100 marketers have not advertised on the social media network in the two weeks before Tuesday, according to a Washington Post analysis.

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Elon Musk and Twitter​


‘The bird is freed’
Elon Musk completed the acquisition of Twitter for $44 billion on Oct. 27. A lot has happened since then as Musk moves to overhaul the company, taking it private and firing top executives and handing half of Twitter’s workers pink slips.
Before the billionaire sealed the deal, an analysis of his 19,000 tweets showed his complicated relationship with Twitter.
Content moderation
Musk stated his desire to own the social media company so that there’s “an inclusive arena for free speech.” But not long after Musk took control, the Twitter trolls went on a rampage.
In an attempt to reassure advertisers, Musk said during a Twitter Spaces he had noted concerns about hate speech and misinformation on the platform. However, concerns continued to grow after top executives, including those leading content moderation efforts, quit.
The new blue check marks
Paid verification was the first product to launch under Musk’s leadership, and its roll-out was anything but smooth. The $7.99 subscription allowed any user to have a sought-after blue check mark, but after an explosion of impersonation accounts the program was paused. The backlash to the flood of misinformation caused some brands to pull their advertising from the platform.
Check your Twitter privacy settings if you’re worried about your data.
Be hardcore
Musk issued the remaining staff an ultimatum: commit to a new “hardcore” Twitter with longer hours and no remote work or leave the company with severance pay. Hundreds are said to have made the decision to leave the company.
The number of likely departures prompted Musk to ease his return-to-office edict and managers to meet to decide which engineers to ask back, causing many to question whether Twitter is on the verge of shutting down.
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Musk says he is a political moderate, but has agreed with right-wing figures on the site who accuse Twitter’s previous management of being biased against conservatives. The day before the midterms, he called on his followers to vote Republican, breaking with tradition of other social media CEOs who typically do not explicitly endorse one party over another.






The right wing and conservatives for years have accused Twitter of censorship with no proof. Many have cheered Musk’s takeover, saying it’s a reason to return to the site.
On the day Musk’s purchase was finalized, Republican members of Congress saw their follower counts skyrocket. Greene gained some 37,000 followers, as did Jordan, then the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. That same day, Democrats’ follower counts plummeted, with Warren losing nearly 19,000 followers and Schiff losing 13,000.

The trend continued for days, with prominent online Republicans gaining thousands of followers and Democrats losing them.
The same thing happened Nov. 19, when Musk announced that he would be reactivating Trump’s account after holding a poll in which any user could vote yes or no. Greene gained an additional 45,000 followers, and Warren and Sanders each lost more than 22,000. In the past month, Greene has increased her following by 330,000, a 28 percent gain, and Jordan by 290,000, a nearly 10 percent rise.
 
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Cleaning up bots, down Dems.
Conservatives return to Twitter, up Repubs.

Makes sense.

An examination of Joe Biden’s followers estimated fully 50% are suspected bot accounts, this was pre-Elon ownership.
 

cigaretteman

HR King
May 29, 2001
73,019
52,681
113
Cleaning up bots, down Dems.
Conservatives return to Twitter, up Repubs.

Makes sense.

An examination of Joe Biden’s followers estimated fully 50% are suspected bot accounts, this was pre-Elon ownership.
I know some liberals are moving to Mastodon too:

A growing number of Democratic officials are exploring open-source social network Mastodon as a potential alternative to Twitter as they protest Elon Musk’s takeover of the company.
At least a dozen Democratic lawmakers and two congressional panels the party leads in the past month have joined Mastodon, which has emerged as a top destination for users fleeing Musk-led Twitter, according to a review by The Technology 202.



The trend highlights the mounting opposition from liberal leaders to Musk’s overhaul of the social network, which has included restoring the account of former president Donald Trump, firing scores of content moderators and vowing to bring back a flood of banned accounts.
Several of the lawmakers, who verified the authenticity of their new accounts either publicly or through spokespeople, directly cited Musk as their reason for taking up Mastodon. Others said they did so to snatch up their user handles or test out the site, but were not actively using it.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), who joined Mastodon earlier this month, said she is “exploring new platforms where misinformation is not actively embraced by the leadership of the company.” Pingree blasted Musk’s “anti-democratic worldview” for turning Twitter into “a pay-to-play platform where anyone with $8 can impersonate a public official.”







Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said that “growing concerns about content moderation and [the] overall stability of Twitter” factored into his decision to join Mastodon.
The House Budget Committee and the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, which leads the party’s messaging efforts in the chamber, also launched Mastodon accounts, though representatives for the panels said they did so to reserve their usernames.
Despite their complaints, so far none of the lawmakers have said they plan to leave Twitter, which has a far larger user base and serves as a key conduit to constituents.
Aaron Fritschner
, Beyer’s deputy chief of staff, said in an interview that many congressional offices are in “wait-and-see mode” regarding their use of Twitter amid fears the site could soon be flooded with hate speech, misinformation and harassment — or that it could collapse. But he’s yet to be a part of any discussions about quitting the platform altogether, he said.



Fritschner, who runs communications for Beyer, said he’s not sure that Mastodon will emerge as a true alternative to Twitter. Still, he said, Democratic staffers are making contingency plans.
“It's hard to imagine anything taking the role that Twitter has come to occupy, but we're at a point I think where … you just really have to start making plans,” he told me.
While Twitter has hundreds of millions of monthly active users, Mastodon, just recently crossed into the millions.
Daniel Schuman
, policy director at the left-leaning advocacy group Demand Progress, said part of Mastodon’s appeal to lawmakers, despite its smaller size, is that it’s already drawing in Twitter power users, including prominent policy leaders, academics and journalists.

“Members of Congress feel the desire to go wherever people are … it doesn't matter what the platform is. They want to go where they are going to be influential and be seen,” he said.


He said he expects many more Democratic lawmakers to join the Mastodon bandwagon. “I think this is the tip of the iceberg,” said Schuman, who works on digital communications issues.
Beyer echoed the sentiment, saying that it “seems likely that many more may follow.”
Mastodon isn’t the first platform lawmakers have flocked to in protest of Twitter.
For years, Republican lawmakers have promoted a slew of alternative right-leaning social networks including Rumble, Parler and Gab in response to their allegations that Twitter and other platforms are biased against conservatives. The trend gained steam after Twitter initially banned Trump.

But like Democratic lawmakers now speaking out against Twitter’s direction under Musk, GOP tech critics continue to routinely post on the platform despite their complaints. And the other platforms are still dwarfed by Twitter.






It’s unclear if any Republican lawmakers have yet to join Mastodon, a “decentralized” platform that lets users host or join their own digital communities called servers.
Of the Democratic lawmakers who have confirmed they have launched Mastodon accounts, most are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the liberal wing of the party.
Fritschner said he hopes the trend does not transform the site into a home only for users on the left, however, or into a counter to conservative havens like Parler and Rumble.

“To me, the goal is to reach everyone, right? … If you're only in a positive feedback loop or an echo chamber, I think the value is greatly diminished,” he said.

 
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