An Analysis by Humphrey Zhao (’24)
Amid the rapidly changing international stage, it’s quite hard to imagine that former president Donald Trump’s Twitter account has been permanently suspended for almost two years now. But it might come equally as surprising that this suspension could be lifted as Twitter suddenly changes hands.
Behind Twitter’s power shift is Elon Musk. Musk is one of the world’s leading billionaires, entrepreneurs, and tech visionaries. Musk is quite a focused man. He manages Tesla, SpeceX, and other ventures simultaneously. Yet, he also reserves energy and time for his other ventures. Musk is very vocal on Twitter. According to a Washington Post estimate, Musk tweets an average of six times a day. Interestingly, Musk’s account isn’t just a mouthpiece for his companies’ updates and broadcasts; it also serves as an output site for his own opinions, about which he doesn’t seem to be reserved. During this May, for instance, Musk openly declared that he would be switching the GOP on Twitter.
Regardless of his true motivations, the tech magnate had become Twitter’s largest shareholder by mid-April. After several delays, Musk has finally made the widely anticipated move of purchasing Twitter for a whopping $44 billion. Musk cites free speech as one of his primary motivations.
One of Musk’s first moves has been to clean those in positions of power. Four top executives of Twitter were fired on October 27th, the day on which he started owning the company. In another controversial move, Musk announced that he would allow former president Donald Trump’s Twitter account to be active again.
Musk’s position has sparked worry among Democrats and liberals. Liberals have raised questions about what Musk wants to achieve with his “free speech.” There are unanswered questions about what Musk’s philosophy on free speech would mean to hate speech, censorship, and false information. Those who are used to a highly regulated digital environment might also feel threatened. On the other hand, conservatives, especially Trump, are looking forward to the days of Musk’s rule of Twitter. To many conservatives, the previous era of Twitter was unfair. They complain about their viewpoints often being censored under the banner of community guidelines and such.
Musk’s bringing back Trump’s Twitter account could be strategic to him, no matter what the entrepreneur really thinks of Trump and the brand of conservatism he represents. Twitter was vital to Trump’s persona and strategy when he was President. The platform allowed Trump to spread his ideology online as the retweet increased his views exponentially. The setting of the platform was also strategic. While Twitter seems much less formal than a press conference, Trump could make the same kind of speech on Twitter–people wouldn’t know if he was serious or not. This lack of knowledge creates suspense and keeps people hooked to his updates. If Trump returns to Twitter sometime soon, the influence he yields will come back just in time for his 2024 campaign.