Elon Musk Is Empowering Right-Wing Extremists on Twitter: Researcher


  • Elon Musk has been weighing in more and more on political issues since buying Twitter.
  • Once positioning himself as neutral, he now shares anti-Democratic conspiracies and endorses the GOP.
  • “Any argument that he’s trying to empower the center is patently bullshit,” a researcher on extremism told Insider.

Though he has long touted himself as “somewhere in the middle” on politics, Elon Musk has been sharing increasingly more conservative political views on Twitter since he first showed interest in purchasing the platform, and is now regularly amplifying anti-Democratic conspiracy theories while endorsing Republican candidates across the country.

“In the past I voted Democrat, because they were (mostly) the kindness party,” Musk wrote in a tweet this May. He then bashed the Democratic Party, adding: “But they have become the party of division & hate, so I can no longer support them and will vote Republican.” 

In November, he called on “independent-minded voters” to vote Republican to curb a Democratic majority. While such an endorsement may seem commonplace in today’s political landscape, critics warn Musk’s widespread influence and increasingly conspiratorial posts appear to be favoring far-right extremism.

“I think he’s intentionally empowering right-wing extremists,” J.M. Berger, a researcher on extremism on social media like Twitter, told Insider. “Any argument that he’s trying to empower the center is patently bullshit and should be treated as such.”

Far-right conspiracy theories

Berger — who has written several books about extremist movements and is a fellow with VOX-Pol, a research network focused on violent online political extremism — told Insider it has become more difficult to talk about extremism without discussing mainstream politics, as views shared by Republican candidates have “increasingly overlapped with kind of extremist points of view,” such as a Florida GOP candidate who was banned from social media after he said he would legalize shooting federal agents on sight and another who said federal agents would leave his home “in a body bag” if they attempted to execute a search warrant, as they did at Mar-a-Lago.  

“So if we’re talking about empowering centrist voices…if you look at polling and you look at people’s attitudes, a centrist platform would not empower anti-LGBTQ+ activism and violence, because most people support equal rights for LGBTQ+ people,” Berger said. 

Musk recently amplified a debunked rumor that Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, was attacked by a lover in a sexual tryst gone wrong, sharing a link to an article that claimed Pelosi and his attacker met at a gay bar, and saying there “might be more to this story than meets the eye.”

The 82-year-old husband of the Speaker of the House was beaten with a hammer in a “politically motivated” attack, according to the San Francisco District Attorney. 

“What we’ve seen since he did this takeover is that he started off positioning himself as super neutral and he’s sort of explicitly saying he’s politically neutral,” Berger said. “And then there are two things that we’ve seen since then: First is in his interactions on Twitter, he is increasingly palling around with, and apparently paying heed to some of the worst people on the far right.”

Lately, Musk’s Twitter mentions and replies include promising users like the infamous right-wing account Libs of TikTok — which is known for promoting anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theories — that Twitter will be “much better” than it was prior to his ownership, accusing The New York Times of going “full woke,” and replying to MAGA activist Charlie Kirk’s musings about Anthony Fauci’s daughter working at Twitter with a quip that it’s a “small world…

‘Skewed’ content moderation

In addition to Musk’s ongoing interactions with popular alt-right figures, Berger and other experts are concerned that Twitter’s current take on content moderation is encouraging extremism and hate speech on the platform.

“The way that Twitter’s content moderation has changed since he’s taken over has definitely skewed towards favoring the far-right,” Berger said.

Since his acquisition, Musk has reinstated the accounts of Kanye West, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Andrew Tate, and the Babylon Bee — each of which was banned for posting antisemitic, misogynistic, or transphobic content in violation of Twitter’s policies. Musk also reinstated the account of Donald Trump after the former president was banned for inciting violence on January 6. 

Berger, who began tracking some of the English-speaking reinstated accounts that appeared on the site, said that the bulk of accounts were “abusers and harassers and trolls” empowered by the lack of robust content moderation to mobilize harassment against users. In some cases, he said, this could escalate towards violence.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate found, in the week immediately following Musk’s takeover, that use of the N-word tripled the 2022 average, anti-LGBTQ slurs were up between 39% and 53%, and antisemitic slurs rose 22%. The New York Times reported antisemitic posts referring to Jews or Judaism soared more than 61 percent in the first two weeks while accounts supporting ISIS came roaring back.

“So whatever [Musk’s] beliefs were in the beginning, or whether there has been an evolution or whether it’s something that was there all along, his tenure at Twitter has been marked by a huge increase in both the presence of far-right accounts on the platform and also in how he personally elevates some of these accounts by seeming to take them seriously and engaging with them on questions of policy,” Berger said.

The billionaire owner of Twitter has also recently suggested the now-collapsed crypto exchange FTX was used for laundering billions of dollars to the Democratic party

“You can kind of see — when you start looking at the stuff over time — you see some public figures who will sort of start dabbling in far-right stuff and then become increasingly oriented in that direction,” Berger said. “And it’s sort of hard to know whether it’s something they were always into, or whether they [are] making a transition in these attitudes that they have.”

Musk and the ‘mythology of the center’

In 2014, Musk described his political views as “half Democrat, half Republican” in an interview with The Atlantic reporter James Fallows, saying “I’m somewhere in the middle, socially liberal and fiscally conservative.” Though he didn’t regularly weigh in on politics prior to this year, Musk said in May that he voted for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden in recent elections — but “unprovoked attacks” against him “by leading Democrats” have caused him to switch parties.

Musk’s posts on Twitter appeared to shift to be explicitly political in February, when he shared (and then deleted) a meme comparing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Hitler after a COVID-19 vaccine mandate was implemented among truck drivers. Since then, he has more frequently posted tweets amplifying right-wing accounts and viewpoints. 

“So, there’s a ‘mythology of the center’ that the far-right advances and that is the mythological center that Elon Musk is interested in promoting,” Berger said. “The idea is that most Americans, or typical Americans, are right-wing, family-values, red state kind of voters — and that’s evidently not true.”

While Congress is increasingly divided between extreme stances, Insider has found Americans are more united on common issues than the divide would suggest.

Insider’s 2017 analysis of partisanship in the country found 71% of Americans believe climate change is real including a group of Trump-supporting Texans. 92% of Americans agree the government should be able to negotiate with drug companies and 86% of Americans want more infrastructure spending. Insider has also reported four out of five people support having more LGBT members of Congress.

“But by creating that mythology,” Berger said. “What they succeed in doing is tilting the entire conversation to the right and then making space for further and further kinds of right far-right views that verge into open extremism.”

Musk and representatives for Twitter did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.


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