Warren, Sanders Lost Over 100k Twitter Followers Each After Elon Musk Takeover

In the weeks following right-wing billionaire Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter in late October, Republican members of Congress gained hundreds of thousands of followers on the platform, while Democrats experienced a purge of followers, a new report finds.

According to an analysis of ProPublica data by The Washington Post, the biggest shifts in follower counts for Republicans have almost all been gains, with the biggest winner being white nationalist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia), followed by far right Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), both gaining over 300,000 followers each. Senators Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (Kentucky) both gained roughly 200,000 followers, while Rep. Matt Gaetz (Florida) added over 100,000 accounts to his follower count.

Meanwhile, the largest shifts in follower counts for Democrats have all been negative, save for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (New York), likely because he is poised to take over for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (California) as the next leader of the Democratic caucus.

The accounts with the biggest losses belong to Senators Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), both of whom lost over 100,000 followers. Rep. Adam Schiff (California) — a member of the January 6 committee and the target of recent attacks from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) as well as a slate of false social media posts — has also lost around 100,000 followers.

Not only do these changes in follow counts generally follow party lines, they also appear to follow the ideological spectrum — some of the furthest right members of Congress gained the most followers, while the most left-leaning members, Sanders and Warren, lost the most.

The Post notes that these findings suggest that left and liberal users appear to be quickly fleeing the platform in the Musk era, while right-wing users are joining Twitter or becoming more active. This could also be the result of the fact that Musk appears to be disproportionately banning prominent left-wing accounts, including antifascist activist and researcher Chad Loder and leftist anarchist collective CrimethInc, while elevating and responding to far right accounts.

The past weeks and years have shown that Musk is a part of the right wing, even though he insists that he is politically neutral. He urged followers to vote for Republicans ahead of the midterm election, has repeatedly donated to Republicans and has tweeted about dangerous far right conspiracy theories on topics like the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband and debunked COVID denialism. Musk’s anti-worker, anti-union management style and hostility toward antiracist and other social justice movements also point to a right-wing ideology.

Musk has also hinted that he will reinstate former President Donald Trump, who was banned for inciting violence around the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Musk has already reinstated accounts belonging to other far right figures like Jordan Peterson (banned for anti-trans hate speech) and the personal account of Greene (banned for COVID disinformation and violent rhetoric).

Such actions have led commentators to speculate that Musk views his ownership of Twitter as a way to advance his right-wing beliefs.

“[I]t’s now impossible to ignore the emerging reality that Musk values owning Twitter as a powerful weapon for right-wing activism,” MSNBC columnist Zeeshan Aleem wrote in an op-ed last week.

“As the richest man on Earth and a proudly exploitative executive, he has a direct interest in amplifying the power of the right,” Aleem continued. “He shares the Republican Party’s hostility to unions, higher tax rates on corporations and the ultra-wealthy, and regulations on businesses. He also seems to find the left’s growing focus on anti-bigotry off-putting, and he doesn’t like challenges to his authority.”

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