It even means, for some members of Congress, making the call long before they know what Twitter will look like under Musk.
Asked how a takeover of Twitter by Musk might affect his use of the platform, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said, “It won’t change my ways, and I don’t know what to think about it.”
Schatz has nearly 400,000 followers on Twitter. Advanced users like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) – with 15.5 million subscribers – and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) — with 12.9 million — didn’t say whether Musk’s takeover would change its approach to Twitter. Neither did the senator. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), with 5.8 million followers, who denounced the purchase of Musk as “dangerous for our democracy”.
A number of political strategists said Twitter was an important way to reach voters and that they would advise customers to keep their accounts open.
“If voters traffic on Twitter, the onus would be on candidates to be able to communicate with them directly where they are,” said Mark Jablonowski, managing partner at DSPolitical, a digital advertising company that supports Democratic candidates.
Still, strategists said most politicians are turning to other social media sites like Instagram and Facebook – which have larger user bases – to reach more voters directly. Twitter’s roughly 40 million daily active US users are dwarfed by Facebook’s more than 200 million US monthly active users.. Where Twitter has appeal is among journalists, Washington insiders and lawmakers themselves.
Andrew Bleeker, president of Bully Pulpit Interactive, a Democratic-aligned communications company, said politicians need to use the platform to reach this small group of super users.
“In particular, journalism and Congress live in a very small Twitter bubble and talk to each other,” Bleeker said.
“Most Americans, when they think of Twitter, don’t think of politics,” he said.
This is probably one of the reasons why inflammatory conservative Republicans have pushed so hard to change Twitter rather than just leave for another right-wing platform like Truth-affiliated Gettr, Gab or former President Donald Trump. Social. “Twitter has never been a very important platform for contacting voters. It’s been a really important channel for shaping narratives and interacting with opinion makers, elites and journalists,” said Eric Wilson, managing partner of Startup Caucus, a Republican campaign tech incubator.
Some Democratic politicians portray staying on Twitter as refusing to back down from a fight.
JA Moore, a Democratic State House lawmaker from South Carolina who is running for re-election, said he would stay on the platform even if Musk lifts Twitter’s current safety barriers.
“My brand of politics is a brand in which I don’t run away from a fight or an uncomfortable situation,” Moore said.
That’s certainly what Musk says he hopes. “I hope even my worst critics stay on Twitter because that’s what free speech means,” he tweeted on Monday.
Still, if Musk’s promise to unleash free speech on Twitter goes too far, and is rife with harassment, hate speech and misinformation, Jablonowski predicts that could push back some candidates.
“At the end of the day, contestants have a very carefully maintained public image most of the time, and not associating themselves with questionable content is often paramount,” he said. “If Twitter becomes a toxic wasteland, I can’t imagine that being a place candidates would want to engage.”
The closest some politicians will come to publicly dismissing a less moderate Twitter is to say they’ll wait and see how bad it gets.
“As a politician from Michigan, where misinformation and disinformation have been prolific and harmful, I’m concerned about what this looks like,” said Christine Morse, a Democratic representative in Michigan’s State House. But, she added, “I’m not going to log out of Twitter just yet, as I’ll wait and see what happens.”
Individual politicians’ accounts have been particularly important because Twitter banned political ads in 2019 – claiming the ads gave an unfair image preference to rich countryside (although critics have argued that the ban itself gives the incumbents the advantage).
Although Musk did not address the issue of political ads, the ban is one of the decisions made by former CEO Jack Dorsey that Musk could reverse. Twitter didn’t have much to lose financially by banning political ads, which only raised $3 million in revenue from the 2018 midterm elections.
Jablonowski said if Musk lifts his ban on political advertising, the site could become even more valuable to Democrats, regardless of what they think of its new owner.
“When you have these blanket political bans, it usually negatively impacts Democrats more than Republicans,” he said. Jablonowski argued that Democrats have a more diverse base that makes targeted political ads more important, meaning bans end up “hindering Democrats’ ability to be as competitive in political elections.”
While broad conservative Republicans hail Musk’s takeover, a few said they were also concerned about what a beefed up Twitter could mean for conservative candidates and campaigns, if it becomes full of harassment. , hate speech and disinformation.
Wilson, of the Republican-focused Startup Caucus, said if Musk were to lift almost all content moderation policies and Twitter turned into a “sink,” then “people would come out of the sink.”
And some in the Republican Party even worry that any reappearance by Trump — whom Twitter permanently banned after the Capitol uprising in January 2021 — could be problematic for Republican candidates entering the midterms. Trump told Fox News on Monday that he has no plans to join Twitter, but former advisers said he would still consider returning.
“It’s definitely going to elevate Trump’s opinions — and is going to hold Republican candidates and members accountable for this,” an aide to the House GOP leadership told the POLITICO Playbook. “That’s enough to create some headaches – and enough to probably cost us a few seats.”
Anthony Adragna contributed to this report.