Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter elicited celebration from conservatives on Friday, particularly among those who felt the company’s former leadership unfairly censored conservative viewpoints. “I feel like a kid in a candy store,” tweeted Libs of TikTok, a popular right-wing Twitter account that has been suspended multiple times for violating the platform’s code of conduct.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) tweeted “FREEDOM OF SPEECH!!!!” from her professional Twitter account on Thursday evening, followed by “We are winning” on Friday morning.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) delivered a similar message, calling Musk’s acquisition of Twitter “one of the most significant developments for free speech in modern times” during a Fox News television appearance on Thursday. “I’m glad he bought Twitter,” Cruz said. “I think that is tremendous that he fired the top executives.” Referring to Musk reportedly firing executives including Twitter’s CEO Parag Agrawal, Cruz added: “He needed to clean house at the top level, and simply allowing free speech is incredibly important.”
Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” has suggested that he would loosen standards for the policing of harmful content such as misinformation and hate speech once he takes over. He has also voiced support for restoring access to former President Donald Trump, whose account was permanently suspended last year after the deadly Jan. 6 attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Speaking during a live interview with the Financial Times in May, he said he would reverse the “permaban” on Trump, calling the lifetime ban a “morally bad decision.”
“I think it’s very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech,” Musk said at a TED Talk in April. “Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square, so it’s just really important that people have … both the reality and the perception that they are able to speak freely within the bounds of the law.”
However, an immediate restoration of the former president’s account appeared less likely after Musk announced on Friday afternoon that Twitter will form a “content moderation council” to make decisions about removing posts and reinstating accounts. He did not say when the council will convene. It’s unclear whether Twitter has changed any of its content moderation policies in the hours since Musk took ownership. Musk tweeted that the Twitter account of Kanye West—now legally known as Ye—had been restored before the acquisition closed and that he had not been consulted on the decision.
To media analysts, it comes as little surprise that right-wing influencers and politicians celebrated Musk’s acquisition of the platform. Polling from the Pew Research Center in 2021 showed that 6 in 10 Republican Twitter users felt that limiting the visibility of certain posts—like obscuring election misinformation—was a major problem. The polling also found that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say Twitter is bad for democracy.
Read More: How Twitter Could Change Under Elon Musk
The platform has instituted a number of permanent suspensions in recent years to prominent accounts, including Greene’s personal account, which was suspended for repeatedly sharing misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. The Babylon Bee, a conservative satire site, also lost access after it published a transphobic humor piece. Media analysts say both accounts could return under Musk.
Musk acknowledged in a note to advertisers on Thursday before the deal was completed that “Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!” But as news of the deal closing spread on Friday, a number of Twitter accounts had posted racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic slurs, prompting concerns that a Musk-controlled platform would be littered with hateful content designed to offend and cause outrage.
Meanwhile, conservative media pundits claimed Musk’s takeover as a victory for their cause, particularly just weeks ahead of the U.S. midterm elections. Ben Shapiro, founder of The Daily Wire, retweeted Musk with a meme of popping champagne, and tweeted, “We can only hope that other social media bosses (cc: Mark Zuckerberg) follow Musk’s lead.”
Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, says that Facebook will “almost certainly” reverse its ban on Trump if Twitter also makes the move. He adds that it could have major implications for the digital town square. “It’s basically giving Republicans a megaphone for the worst forms of election lies, which can inspire further doubt about democracy and even threats,” Carusone says. “And if they can target some of these local election races, they can be very disruptive.”
Read More: What to Know About Trump’s Twitter Ban, Now That Elon Musk Owns the Platform
Trump himself applauded Twitter’s new ownership in a statement posted to TRUTH Social, his own social media platform, on Friday. “I am very happy that Twitter is now in sane hands, and will no longer be run by Radical Left Lunatics and Maniacs that truly hate our country,” Trump wrote. He began his message by touting TRUTH Social and claiming without any supporting evidence that it “had bigger numbers” last week “than all other platforms, including TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest.”
Although Trump has said he would not rejoin Twitter even if his lifetime ban were to be lifted, that didn’t stop some conservative politicians from celebrating the idea on Friday. “The bird is free, now free the GOAT,” tweeted Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), tagging @realdonaldtrump. The acronym stands for “greatest of all time.”
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