Just six days into Elon Musk’s reign over Twitter, prominent conservative pundits and commentators who lauded his acquisition of the platform as an opportunity to reshape it in their own image have started to turn on the Tesla billionaire.
On Friday, Musk announced that content moderation decisions would be made by a “council,” later tweeting to Twitter Head of Safety Yoel Roth that he had met with “civil society leaders,” including the Anti-Defamation League’s Jonathan Greenblatt, Color of Change President Rashad Robinson, and The Asian American Foundation CEO Norman Chen, to discuss “how Twitter will continue to combat hate & harassment & enforce its election integrity policies.”
It did not go over well.
Pundits who just days ago had lionized Musk as a messiah of online free speech made a whiplash-worthy U-turn.
“Why is it in anyway part of Twitter’s goal to ‘combat hate’? Or have anything to do with election integrity?” tweeted right wing Youtuber Lauren Chen. “This is not sounding like a triumph for free speech,” she added.
Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec expressed outrage, as well, tweeting at Musk that “every member of this group of ‘divergent views’ called for Trump to be censored while he was the sitting President of the United States.” Other reactionary conservatives like Mike Cernovich, Tom Fitton, and Sean Davis criticized Musk’s decision to speak to members of civil rights organizations, also taking issue with their ideological standpoints of the people Musk was consulting. Turning Point USA’s Benny Johnson advised Musk to fire Yoel Roth to “restore trust” in the platform.
“Hey look it’s complete bullshit” added conservative podcaster Tim Pool after Musk clarified that “Twitter will not allow anyone who was de-platformed for violating Twitter rules back on platform until we have a clear process for doing so, which will take at least a few more weeks.”
Darren Beattie, a former White House speech writer who was forced from his post in 2016 after attending a White Nationalist conference, tweeted that Greenblatt was “a disgrace and a joke — a shame to his family and to the human race.” Beattie wrote a series of tweets attempting to discredit Roth, cautioning Musk that he was “slipping.” The thread was promoted by Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz.
The biggest blow, however, many have come from “Catturd,” a popular anonymous right-wing Twitter account styled as a cat with glasses. They tweeted that they were “100% wrong about @elonmusk changing Twitter” and that “the new Twitter moderation council is just a bunch of far left fanatic groups who were never targeted here.”
In a follow up tweet, Catturd said that Musk should just “go ahead and put Rob Reiner, Hunter Biden, Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Bette Midler, and Cher on the new Twitter moderation council … They’re actual to the right of the far left lunatics he’s considering. I was 100% wrong – nothing’s changing.”
Catturd was among the flood of users @-ing Musk following his takeover, claiming they had been “shadowbanned, ghostbanned, [and] searchbanned.” Musk replied, saying he would “be digging in” on the claim. After the interaction went viral, Catturd wrote that his “search ban has apparently been removed” and that the bump in followers was evidence the problem had been addressed.
The brief time he has spent in charge of the platform has seen a slew of promised changes, as well asallegations of turmoil within the company. Musk has fired members of Twitter’s C-suite, dismissed the board of the company, and threatened to clear out large swaths of staff. Less than a week before the midterms he has also allegedly ordered moderators locked out of content moderation tools, and is reportedly personally moderating tweets regarding the Brazilian election.
While Musk has promised the creation of a content review board, as it stands Twitter’s major content moderation decisions seem to revolve around the principle of “tagging Elon in the replies until he sees it and makes a decision.” Such was the case for Arizona secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem. Finchem, a staunch denier of the 2020 election results, credited Musk with reinstating his accounts hours after his supporters bombarded Musk with petitions on his behalf. Finchem, who is locked in a close race with Democrat Adrian Fontes, has vowed not to concede if he loses Tuesday’s general election.
Musk noticed the backlash to his moderation plan on Wednesday. Being attacked by both right & left simultaneously is a good sign,” he tweeted.