Ever since tech titan Elon Musk purchased Twitter in 2022, his critics have bashed the changes he’s made to the platform, which he is rebranding under the name X. His supporters are seemingly elated, however, with the moves he has made. But as the 2024 presidential campaign heats up, many political observers are concerned about how much the platform will affect the outcome. Twitter has been known to attract users who post strong political opinions. In the past, there has been an attempt to reign in fake political news, which can have the potential to sway the masses with inaccuracies. But will fake political news take over Twitter/X under Musk, who rallies absolute free speech? Some say this could be particularly scary, especially in the wake of the rise of artificial intelligence, AI, being used to make fake videos and audio that appear dangerously real.
Here are five facts to consider.
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and his Kingdom Holding Company are significant investors in Twitter. He has invested so much that he is the second largest investor in Twitter/X since Musk officially bought the platform, Politico reported.
Why is this concerning? One, the slaying of reporter Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in 2018, had many pointing fingers at the Saudi Prince. Two, the investment raises questions about the potential influence of foreign entities on a prominent U.S. social media platform.
The foreign investment in Twitter/X has led to a call from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) for a government review over potential national security concerns. And President Joe Biden agreed.
“I think that Elon Musk’s cooperation and or technical relationships with other countries is worthy of being looked at,” Biden said during a post-election news conference at the White House in Nov. 2022. “Whether he is doing anything inappropriate — I’m suggesting that — I’m suggesting that it’s worth being looked at.”
Sen. Chris Murphy and others have voiced concerns over potential national security threats due to foreign investment in Twitter/X. Given Saudi Arabia’s track record on political speech and human rights, there are worries that such ownership could negatively impact free expression and potentially influence the political narrative in the U.S., especially during an election season, The New York Daily News reported.
Musk has stated his commitment to free speech, positioning Twitter as an unfettered and possibly monitored public platform. This could mean that misinformation, hate speech, and election-related disinformation do not get filtered.
And Twitter/X now has a small staff, which means fewer workers to monitor what gets posted.
Musk has slashed more than 80 percent of its staff, from 8,000 to 1,500. He has also fired or forced out top executives and even entire teams in key security roles designed to counter election disinformation, hate speech, and other problems on the platform, The New York Times reported.
As the 2024 presidential election approaches, Twitter/x faces increased misinformation and divisive content as well as coordinated disinformation campaigns.
“The lack of enforcement of policies around hate speech, disinformation, and platform manipulation, combined with cuts to the content moderation staff and the recent loss of the head of Trust and Safety, send a message that Twitter is not serious about keeping harmful content off the platform,” Caroline Orr Bueno, a digital disinformation, deception, and influence expert at the University of Maryland, told USA Today.
Orr Bueno continued, “And you can be sure that bad actors will get the message – and some of them will act on it. And when that happens, it’s not clear that anyone at Twitter is even equipped or empowered to detect election-related disinformation or influence campaigns, nor is there any reason to be confident that Twitter will be quick to act on something like this, given the direction that the company has gone in recent months.”
Musk’s alignment with right-wing voices and his demonstrated efforts for personal vendetta are of additional concerns. Will he use Twitter/X to promote his own political stance, which is often pro-MAGA. As soon as he took over the platform, Musk reinstated high-profile election deniers, including former President Donald Trump and far-right extremists.
Twitter, now X. Corp., and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses before his talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, May 15, 2023, at the Elysee Palace in Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, Pool, File)