Column: Elon Musk's Takeover of Twitter Could Totally Remake Politics

April 14th, 2022 11:05 AM

It was the stock buyout heard ‘round the world. Tesla owner Elon Musk’s offer to buy Twitter could save the whole concept of online free speech and alter politics and elections globally for years to come. 

Musk’s move might be the biggest political event since the 2020 election. Media Research Center founder and President L. Brent Bozell tweeted about the offer, “Free at last. Free at last. Conservatives may be free at last!” 

Leftists and the media were horrified that Musk might interfere with their ability to censor content, not just in the U.S., but worldwide. Twitter was consistently the absolute worst of the social media sites for restricting conservative content. MRC’s CensorTrack database tracked 1,954 examples of Twitter censorship, over half of the total 3,636 entries of Big Tech censorship logged. 

The censorship was aimed at some of the biggest names in the conservative movement such as conservative radio host Dan Bongino, Hollywood icon James Woods, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Donald Trump Jr. An October 2021 MRC study even found that Big Tech giants overwhelmingly censored Republican members of Congress by a rate of 54-to-1 compared to congressional Democrats. Liberal media outlet Vice learned in 2018 that multiple Republican figures, including RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, were shadowbanned from Twitter’s search function. 

Big Tech censorship wasn’t limited to Americans. Big Tech companies took to flexing their insane censorship powers overseas. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and conservative member of British Parliament David Davis both found themselves attacked by Big Tech censors.  

But that barely scratches the surface. Every major Big Tech platform — Twitter, Facebook, Google, YouTube, TikTok and more — censored conservatives. Tech CEOs repeatedly denied they restrict conservative content until caught. They also won’t release the details of the algorithms they use to control content. 

Musk’s purchase could lift the veil of censorship that hangs like a shroud over the conservative movement. The pending purchase could also mean former President Donald Trump’s long-awaited return to Twitter. The former president used his social media superpower to beat former Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in 2016. It helped offset the overwhelming bias against him in the legacy media. 

Big Tech rebelled after Trump’s victory. Breitbart released a video of Google executives talking to a large audience of employees the day after the election. Google co-founder Sergey Brin told the company that he was “deeply offended” by the results of the election, which posed “conflicts with many of the company’s values.” 

Other platforms were “offended” too and were determined to destroy Trump’s social media presence going into the 2020 election. Twitter in particular censored Trump and his campaign a whopping 625 times between May 31, 2018 and Jan. 4, 2021. President Joe Biden and his campaign weren’t censored at all during that time period.

Social media firms and their news media comrades spent every day after the 2016 election trying to prevent a Trump repeat. Twitter, Facebook and other sites massively increased their anti-conservative censorship during Trump’s term. Both Twitter and Facebook also censored the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop scandal just prior to the election.

The worst case of censorship about the Hunter Biden laptop scandal involved one of the most powerful committees in Congress. The GOP House Judiciary Committee tweeted the following on Oct. 14, 2020: "Twitter has blocked users from tweeting the link to the @nypost's story on Hunter Biden. So we put it on our website for you to read and share." 

The GOP House Judiciary linked to a press release on its website that contained a republished version initially published in the New York Post. The press release also linked to the original story. When users attempted to click the link to the official press release, they were stopped by a warning saying: "Warning, this link may be unsafe."

Even former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany found her Twitter account locked when she tried to share the New York Post story on Hunter. McEnany told Fox's Sean Hannity that Twitter is holding her "at gunpoint" by refusing to give her access to her account until she deleted the tweet.

Censorship of the Hunter Biden story was just one in a parade of content restrictions that ultimately led to President Joe Biden winning the 2020 election. An MRC poll of 1,750 Biden voters found that 45 percent of them weren’t fully aware of the Hunter Biden story precisely because the media and Big Tech tried to whitewash it. “Full awareness” would have led 9.4 percent of Biden voters to abandon him, flipping all six of the swing states he won, and giving Donald Trump 311 electoral votes. 

Twitter and nine other Big Tech sites banned the former president following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The sites that initiated a Trump ban included YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, Stripe, Snapchat, Reddit, TikTok and even Shopify.

It wasn’t always that way. Twitter’s former General Manager Tony Wang claimed “we remain neutral as to the content” and called the site "the free speech wing of the free speech party." Only that was in 2012. The site made a complete reversal in 10 years. 

The safe-space-loving left pushed the site toward far worse content moderation shortly after Wang’s comment. That battle escalated leading into the 2016 election.

Trump’s dominant use of social media, especially Twitter, was key to his election in 2016. He had nearly 13 million Twitter followers prior to the vote and used his online megaphone to set a news agenda. 

Trump wielded social media like a Twitter version of the Incredible Hulk. It gave him the power to virtually smash critics and leftist journalists alike — defining the campaign. The Washington Post noted at the time that, “Trump used social media, and Twitter in particular, to build relationships with voters and create a word-of-mouth buzz for his brand.” The paper added, “this strategy helped Trump build attitudinal loyalty, the degree to which a customer prefers or likes a brand, rather than behavioral loyalty, when a customer buys a product out of habit.”

Ohio University Social Media Analytics Research Team Lab Director Laqeeq Khan also noted in 2016 that “Trump won social media. Simply put, Trump’s campaign was more engaged with voters.” Khan added that Trump “mastered Twitter by embracing immediacy (right now), transparency (unvarnished expression), and risk (rather than caution).” 

Then-Facebook Chief Technology Officer Andrew Bosworth told BBC in 2016 that “Mr Trump was not elected because of ‘misinformation,’ but ‘because he ran the single best digital ad campaign I've ever seen from any advertiser. Period’.” 

Trump built that Twitter army up to 88 million followers during his presidential term and used it to influence major news organizations. Even journalists who hated him hung on every tweet, eager for Trump to make news. 

Now Musk has an opportunity to hit a reset and journalists and leftists in Big Tech are going to try to stop him.