After months of lauding Elon Musk’s planned acquisition of Twitter, conservative news pundits and influencers continue to back the tech billionaire despite the collapse of the $44 billion deal and the company’s plans to sue Musk.
The continued support fits into a larger movement among conservatives pushing against moderation efforts by major social media platforms like Twitter, but some experts say Musk’s moves have actually put him at a disadvantage in a potential court battle with the social media company.
Podcast host Ben Shapiro, who has over 4 million YouTube subscribers, said in a video Saturday that Musk has “Twitter over a barrel.” Shapiro said Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has demonstrated that Twitter’s true value is far below its tanking stock market value. However, Musk’s own Tesla stock has also fallen by almost 4 percent, in comparison to Twitter’s falling by more than 6 percent.
Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld said Friday that Musk was “an engineer in a china shop,” as opposed to a bull, and added that he thought Musk had shown what was broken at Twitter.
Tim Pool, who has over 1 million subscribers on YouTube, said in a video Monday that Musk’s decision could be “4D chess,” which refers to a strategy that can’t be understood by ordinary people.
The influencers are largely echoing Musk’s own statements about himself. On Sunday, Musk posted a meme of himself laughing at the highlights of the deal, ending with “Now they have to disclose bot info in court,” next to an image of Musk cackling. Immediately after the tweet, he posted an image of Chuck Norris playing chess.
Many conservative personalities supported Musk’s plan to take over Twitter and allow unmoderated speech. Three months ago, when Musk became Twitter’s largest shareholder, Shapiro celebrated the move as a step that he said would help bring the control of corporate America back to the people.
Pool, similarly to other conservative internet personalities, tweeted a list of people he hoped Musk could bring back. “Elon needs to bring back trump, Alex jones, milo, and loomer,” he wrote in April. Former President Donald Trump was removed from Twitter following tweets that Twitter said encouraged violence at the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021. Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Laura Loomer were suspended from Twitter for abusive behavior and hateful conduct.
The support for Musk’s moves largely fits into a trend among right-wing influencers’ bashing Twitter and other major social media companies, which they say are overly censorious of conservative voices, even though some evidence suggests that conservative content actually has a performance edge on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
Musk has also gained a conservative following because of his edgy humor and politics. Just in the last month, Musk gained and lost fans for everything from questioning gender-affirming surgery to poking fun a President Joe Biden.
Despite the continued support for Musk, some experts say Twitter has the upper hand.
On Friday, Musk’s attorney notified Twitter’s board that Musk would terminate the deal. Musk has cited his disbelief in Twitter’s estimate that 5 percent of its accounts are bots or spam accounts as a reason he no longer wants to buy the company.
Two corporate law professors told CNBC on Friday that Twitter would have an advantage in a potential court battle and that his case might not be strong enough.
Musk and Twitter have been battling for months over whether the company has granted him enough access to data that can verify the amount of bot activity on the platform. After Musk announced plans to terminate the deal, a Twitter employee said that it felt like “we won” but that Musk had “destroyed the company.”
Twitter shareholders have also sued both the company and Musk over the chaotic acquisition attempt. Twitter’s case against Musk would go to Delaware Court of Chancery, which settles business disputes, and he could also face a $1 billion penalty.