Elon Musk said Twitter should be “politically neutral,” in a comment posted last night after a spate of account deletions by left-leaning users on the social network.
The company confirmed that in the days following the acceptance of Musk’s $44 billion (£34.5 billion) takeover bid by Twitter’s board of directors, hundreds of thousands of users had closed their accounts on the site, leading to a drop in the number of followers of left-leaning politicians. Celebrities like Barack, Michelle Obama, Taylor Swift and Jeremy Corbyn.
Meanwhile, the right-wing influencers such as Far-right Congressman Marjorie Taylor GreenBoris Johnson and Ted Cruz have made significant gains as new users sign up for the service.
In the latest series of tweets about the platform that Musk hopes will become proprietary, the world’s richest person has indicated that he will not seek to politicize Twitter.
“For Twitter to deserve the public’s trust, it must be politically neutral, which effectively means disturbing the far right and the far left in equal measure.” tweet yesterday.
In previous comments, Musk has been vocal about his desire to promote freedom of expression on Twitter, saying he is “against censorship that goes far beyond the law.”
“If people want less freedom of expression, they will ask the government to pass laws to that effect,” Musk added. “Therefore, bypassing the law goes against the will of the people.”
His comments were interpreted as criticism of Twitter’s current moderation policies, particularly those affecting the American right. Former President Donald Trump was banned from the social network in 2021 for his role in encouraging the storming of the US Capitol, while Greene’s personal account was permanently suspended after breaching the platform’s five-strike rule.
But Musk argued that the changes he made would affect all users. “The attacks are dense and fast, mainly from the left, which is not surprising,” he said, In a reply Right-wing journalist Ben Shapiro. However, I have to be clear that the Right is probably a little unhappy as well. My goal is to maximize the area under the total human happiness curve, which means that about 80% of people are in the middle.”
However, the response to acquisition was not evenly distributed. Katy Perry, the pop star and the third largest user of the site, lost 7,000 followers in a few days, while Obama, who has 132 million followers, the former US president’s most popular account on the site, lost 5,000 followers on Tuesday alone. The number of followers of former first lady Michelle Obama fell by about 20,000 people.
Cruz, the Texas senator, added more than 60,000 followers, while Green gained more than 100,000 followers in the past week, ten times more than the normal rate. Johnson’s follower count has risen by nearly 10,000, but the Twitter account of former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn has lost just over 1,000 followers.
Some speculated that the changes were the result of an action from Twitter “cleaning the house” in preparation for the takeover, but the social network instead said it was the result of “organic” activity. “While we continue to take action on accounts that violate our spam policy and that can impact follower numbers, it appears that these fluctuations are largely due to an increase in new account creation and deactivation,” a company spokesperson said.
Much of Musk’s criticism of Twitter’s moderation practices has been Focus on one employee, Vijaya Jade, Chief Legal Officer of the company. His tweets prompted tens of thousands of abusive messages targeting the CEO, and a public reprimand from Twitter’s former CEO, Dick Costolo. “What’s going on?” Costolo tweeted at Musk. “You are hiring an executive in the company you just bought with the aim of harassment and threats.”
He later added, “Bullying is not leadership,” to which Musk responded, “What are we talking about? I’m just saying Twitter should be politically neutral.”
The social media platform admitted in its first-quarter results Thursday that it overestimated its user numbers by nearly two million between the first quarter of 2019 and the fourth quarter of 2021. In a feature that allows people to link multiple separate accounts together in order to switch between them easily.
The company had 229 million daily users in the first quarter of the year, up from 214.7 million in the previous three months. The rise was slightly higher than analysts had expected.
In what may be one of its final earnings reports as a public company, Twitter also announced that its revenue rose to $1.2 billion in the first quarter, up from $1.04 billion a year earlier but slightly less than expected.