Washington is bracing for the return of incendiary missives from from one of Twitter’s most controversial users — former “tweeter-in-chief” Donald Trump.

That’s if Elon Musk has his way, and follows through on his renewed commitment to buy the platform for $44 billion. Musk has been clear he’d like to see the platform operate with fewer restrictions on what users can say, and said he’d reinstate Trump, who was banned for tweets that violated platform rules against the incitement of violence during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

So the former president could find his tweeting privileges restored — right ahead of the 2022 midterms and the 2024 general election. With a few keystrokes on a phone, Trump could awaken D.C. journos, fire off an endorsement of an embattled candidate or supercharge the latest conservative meme.

It’s got Trump’s opponents on the left worried about what will come next.

“Elon Musk successfully buying Twitter a month before the midterms has the potential to cause significant chaos,” Evan Feeney, deputy senior campaign director at Color Of Change, a civil rights advocacy group, said in an interview.

If the deal goes through, Musk — a self-described “free-speech absolutist” — has said he wants to take the platform in a different direction — with less content moderation, which had earned him high praise from conservatives who claim the platform censors their viewpoints. Trump has said he probably won’t rejoin Twitter — but his own Truth Social platform has failed to gain the massive user conservative base Trump had accrued on Twitter before the platform banned him.

Some conservatives have already moved past Twitter and don’t see Musk as the savior of the platform. Jason Miller, CEO of conservative-leaning app GETTR, said, “Social media enthusiasts are sick and tired of the political discrimination, and they’re leaving the Dying Blue Bird in favor of free speech platforms including GETTR.”

Whatever the former president decides, Musk’s latest move seems to have made a return possible. After trying to back out of the deal, which brought a lawsuit from Twitter and rapidly approaching court date, Musk said he would drop his objections and go ahead with the deal in an SEC filing on Monday.

In the latest in the on-again, off-again saga, the Tesla CEO said he will proceed with closing the April merger agreement, pending debt financing and an immediate stay in the case of Twitter v. Musk before the Delaware Court of Chancery.

“We received the letter from the Musk parties which they have filed with the SEC,” a Twitter spokesperson said. “The intention of the company is to close the transaction at $54.20 per share.”

The about-face from Musk comes before a five-day trial in Delaware is set to begin Oct. 17. Musk has requested the trial be adjourned pending the deal closing or a further order from the court. Twitter declined to comment on the next steps it will take in its lawsuit to force Musk to hold up his end of the agreement.

The impending deal has watchdog groups worried that Twitter — already a combative platform — will become worse, if not dangerous.

“The changing of the policies around misinformation, election ads, content, and undoing bans of hateful actors, will have harmful impacts on black users and voters,” Feeney said. “This deal going through was already going to be harmful. This deal going through in this moment, amplifies the harms that are going to unfold.”

If Musk sticks with his word and removes most of the content moderation rules in place, which could include those that ban hate speech, extremism and vaccine and election misinformation — it may turn into a platform that poses a threat to democracy, some say.

“With over 300 million Twitter users worldwide, every decision the social media platform makes has major implications for our democracy, society, and culture,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), chair of an Energy and Commerce subcommittee that deals with consumer protection.

“We are calling for careful content moderation that balances the important ideals of democracy, free expression, and public health and safety,” Jessica González, co-CEO of Free Press, a nonpartisan media advocacy organization, said in an interview.

“I don’t think that Musk has demonstrated that he can hold that balance and or that even cares, frankly,” she said.

Twitter could become a harmful place for many minority groups who use the platform as well.

“When hate harassment campaigns run on Twitter — especially those that target women and women of color in particular — we know that those campaigns are designed to shut people up and to actually shut down free speech,” González said.
Source: Politico
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