Dangerously Free Speech: How Musk’s Twitter Revolution Will Transform Politics

By Tom Willerton-Gartside

VOX populi, vox dei. Trump. Tate. Peterson. Freedom of speech has returned to Twitter, and long may it continue. With it, the pendulum of politics swings once more.

For some time, cancel culture had threatened to overrun mainstream social media, with alternative views exiled to smaller sites. Indeed, up until this point, the ‘woke brigades’ stranglehold on mainstream social media was becoming increasingly tight. But now, with the reinstatement of previously ‘cancelled’ figures, Twitter can once more become a hub for discussion and debate.

Donald Trump, Andrew Tate and Kanye West may spew abhorrence, but the right to say it must be defended to the death. Their language is inflaming, insensitive and hateful, but it shouldn’t be stopped. There are previously uncancelled people on Twitter who have incited, and caused, far more deaths than many of those who found themselves on the wrong side of the previous Twitter leadership.

The reinstatement, particularly of Trump, will change politics once more. Again, Trump’s clever, off-the-cuff messaging will be available to the masses, and again, will provide him with the platform to drop grenade after grenade during the 2024 US Elections. Political campaigning will return to its pre-COVID trajectory, where the line between fake news and the objective truth was becoming increasingly obscure. In modern day politics, the actual truth does not matter; the truth people believe does.

But it is Twitter Blue that interests me the most. For $8 a month, anyone can access the verified blue tick along with a host of other features, including boosted tweets. This will change political campaigning on social media like never before. Now, anyone can pay $8 to increase views of their political messaging.

Whilst Musk rightly points out that this could increase the success of citizen journalism, it has the potential to be very dangerous. Indeed, Russia will be licking its metaphorical lips at its advent. It is well-known that Russia has attempted to intervene in previous elections in order to destabilise the West. And Musk has just given them another weapon. Boosted Twitter bots will only add to Russia’s armoury and, with the blue tick, it will allow fake news to spread faster, and more widely, than ever before.

Let’s not kid ourselves though. It isn’t just Russia who will use Twitter Blue to advance their strategic goals. Since 2016, political campaigning on social media has taken on an increasingly significant role, and Twitter Blue will only advance it further. Political parties, on all sides of the spectrum, would be foolish to ignore it.

With the potential to spread fake, favourable stories quickly- and no accountability- Twitter Blue accounts have the potential to deflect or alter a campaign narrative. Although it’s true that there are some ways that Twitter will distinguish between previously verified users and Twitter Blue subscribers, the sight of a blue tick – to many – will verify a story.

Activists, and others not directly associated with political parties, with a subscription will have a larger outreach, meaning fake news can spread faster and more widely. It’s immoral, but political campaigning has never been moral.

It is time for us to admit that Elon Musk has more of a say on the direction of politics than most world leaders. As Musk himself admitted, ‘negative/hate’ tweets will be ‘deboosted & demonetized’.

But it is Musk and his band of unelected, unaccountable content moderators that decide what is negative, and what is hate. What they decide will have a significant impact on elections for decades to come.

Opinion articles featured on Redaction Report reflect the views of their author, not those of the publication as a whole. Only Editorials display the opinions of our management.

Featured Image: Steve Jurvetson @ Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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