High-profile Republicans gain followers in first weeks of Musk’s reign

Shift in follower counts for Elizabeth Warren, Ted Cruz show how the platform is beginning to change under Musk

The biggest shifts in Twitter followers for Republican and Democratic members of Congress since Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter.

Rep. Marjorie

Taylor Greene GA

Oct. 28 Musk

buys Twitter

Rep. Jim

Jordan OH

300K

Sen. Ted Cruz TX

200K

100K

Rep. Hakeem

Jeffries NY

More

followers

0

Fewer

followers

Sen. Bernie

Sanders VT

−100K

Sen. Elizabeth

Warren MA

−200K

Sept.30

Nov. 21

Note: Sanders is an independent who caucuses with Democrats. Top 10 Democrats and Republicans by the difference in follower counts from Oct. 27 to Nov. 21.

The biggest shifts in Twitter followers for Republican and Democratic members of Congress since Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter.

Oct. 28 Musk

buys Twitter

Rep. Marjorie

Taylor Greene GA

Rep. Jim

Jordan OH

300K

Sen. Ted Cruz TX

200K

100K

Rep. Hakeem

Jeffries NY

More followers

0

Fewer followers

Sen. Bernie

Sanders VT

−100K

Sen. Elizabeth

Warren MA

−200K

Sept. 30

Oct. 10

Oct. 24

Nov. 07

Nov. 21

Note: Sanders is an independent who caucuses with Democrats. Top 10 Democrats and Republicans by the difference in follower counts from Oct. 27 to Nov. 21.

Fewer followers

More followers

200

K

300

K

K

0

K

−100

100

Sept. 30

The biggest shifts in Twitter followers for Republican and Democratic members of Congress since Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter.

Oct. 10

Oct. 24

Oct. 28

Elon Musk

buys Twitter

Nov. 7

Nov. 21

Rep.

Adam. B

Schiff

CA

Rep.

Hakeem

Jeffries

NY

Rep.

Matt

Gaetz

FL

Rep.

Jim

Jordan

OH

Rep.

Marjorie

Taylor

Greene

GA

Sen.

Elizabeth

Warren

MA

Sen.

Bernie

Sanders

VT

Sen.

Rand

Paul

KY

Sen.

Ted

Cruz

TX

Note: Sanders is an independent who caucuses with Democrats. Top 10 Democrats and Republicans by the difference in follower counts from Oct. 27 to Nov. 21.

Fewer followers

More followers

200

K

300

K

K

0

K

−100

100

Sept. 30

The biggest shifts in Twitter followers for Republican and Democratic members of Congress since Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter.

Oct. 10

Oct. 24

Oct. 28

Elon Musk

buys Twitter

Nov. 7

Nov. 21

Rep. Adam

B. Schiff CA

Rep. Hakeem

Jeffries NY

Rep. Matt

Gaetz FL

Rep. Jim

Jordan OH

Rep. Marjorie

Taylor Greene

GA

Sen. Elizabeth

Warren MA

Sen. Bernie

Sanders VT

Sen. Rand

Paul KY

Sen. Ted

Cruz TX

Note: Sanders is an independent who caucuses with Democrats. Top 10 Democrats and Republicans by the difference in follower counts from Oct. 27 to Nov. 21.

High-profile Republican members of Congress gained tens of thousands of Twitter followers in the first few weeks of Elon Musk’s reign over the social media network, while their Democratic counterparts experienced a decline, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) all lost about 100,000 Twitter followers in the first three weeks of Musk’s ownership of Twitter, while Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio) gained more than 300,000 each.

It’s difficult to tell exactly why follower counts go up and down, and the counts are often affected by Twitter banning bot accounts en masse. Not everyone following a specific politician is a supporter.

Musk’s ‘free speech’ agenda dismantles safety work at Twitter, insiders say

Still, the pattern suggests that tens of thousands of liberals may be leaving the site while conservatives are joining or becoming more active, shifting the demographics of the site under Musk’s ownership. The changes are in line with a trend that began in April, when Musk announced his intention to buy the company.

On average, Republicans gained 8,000 followers and Democrats lost 4,000. For its analysis, The Post analyzed data from ProPublica’s Represent tool, which tracks congressional Twitter activity.

Musk and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment. On Saturday, Musk said he would support Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis if he ran for president in 2024.

‘Opening the gates of hell’: Musk says he will revive banned accounts

Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion late last month having pledged to bring his vision of free speech absolutism to the site. The day he took over, he said Twitter wouldn’t become “a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!” But users immediately started testing the boundaries of the new site under Musk, prompting hate speech to briefly surge.

Since taking over Twitter, CEO Elon Musk has laid off thousands, many tasked with maintaining crucial services. Former staff worry the site may collapse. (Video: Jonathan Baran/The Washington Post)

Since then, Musk launched and rolled back Twitter Blue Verified, a $7.99 monthly membership that puts a check mark next to any account that pays. The move prompted an explosion of fake accounts. Musk also fired about half the staff, and required the rest of his workers to pledge to work long hours or leave the company, significantly reducing the number of people who are policing the site.

Musk also has restored several major rule-breaking accounts, including former president Donald Trump’s, following an unrepresentative and unscientific Twitter poll. On Thursday, after a similar poll, he said he would grant “general amnesty” for all banned accounts that didn’t post spam or break the law.

Advertisers have been fleeing, raising doubts about the site’s ability to make money. More than a third of Twitter’s top 100 marketers have not advertised on the social media network in the two weeks before Tuesday, according to a Washington Post analysis.

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Elon Musk and Twitter
‘The bird is freed’
Elon Musk completed the acquisition of Twitter for $44 billion on Oct. 27. A lot has happened since then as Musk moves to overhaul the company, taking it private and firing top executives and handing half of Twitter’s workers pink slips.
Before the billionaire sealed the deal, an analysis of his 19,000 tweets showed his complicated relationship with Twitter.
Content moderation
Musk stated his desire to own the social media company so that there’s “an inclusive arena for free speech.” But not long after Musk took control, the Twitter trolls went on a rampage.
In an attempt to reassure advertisers, Musk said during a Twitter Spaces he had noted concerns about hate speech and misinformation on the platform. However, concerns continued to grow after top executives, including those leading content moderation efforts, quit.
The new blue check marks
Paid verification was the first product to launch under Musk’s leadership, and its roll-out was anything but smooth. The $7.99 subscription allowed any user to have a sought-after blue check mark, but after an explosion of impersonation accounts the program was paused. The backlash to the flood of misinformation caused some brands to pull their advertising from the platform.
Check your Twitter privacy settings if you’re worried about your data.
Be hardcore
Musk issued the remaining staff an ultimatum: commit to a new “hardcore” Twitter with longer hours and no remote work or leave the company with severance pay. Hundreds are said to have made the decision to leave the company.
The number of likely departures prompted Musk to ease his return-to-office edict and managers to meet to decide which engineers to ask back, causing many to question whether Twitter is on the verge of shutting down.

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Musk says he is a political moderate, but has agreed with right-wing figures on the site who accuse Twitter’s previous management of being biased against conservatives. The day before the midterms, he called on his followers to vote Republican, breaking with tradition of other social media CEOs who typically do not explicitly endorse one party over another.

The right wing and conservatives for years have accused Twitter of censorship with no proof. Many have cheered Musk’s takeover, saying it’s a reason to return to the site.

On the day Musk’s purchase was finalized, Republican members of Congress saw their follower counts skyrocket. Greene gained some 37,000 followers, as did Jordan, then the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. That same day, Democrats’ follower counts plummeted, with Warren losing nearly 19,000 followers and Schiff losing 13,000.

The trend continued for days, with prominent online Republicans gaining thousands of followers and Democrats losing them.

The same thing happened Nov. 19, when Musk announced that he would be reactivating Trump’s account after holding a poll in which any user could vote yes or no. Greene gained an additional 45,000 followers, and Warren and Sanders each lost more than 22,000. In the past month, Greene has increased her following by 330,000, a 28 percent gain, and Jordan by 290,000, a nearly 10 percent rise.

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