Elon Musk Buys Twitter: What Could This Mean for Twitterzuela?

Elon Musk Buys Twitter: What Could This Mean for Twitterzuela?

Published on 09 Aug 2022

Twitter will change now that Elon Musk is its new owner. Will it change the way Venezuelans, inside and outside of the country, shape the political conversation?

This week, Elon Musk successfully negotiated a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion, the equivalent of Venezuela’s GDP. Everyone is talking about it, so we wanted to analyze what this means, and most importantly, what it means for Venezuelan Twitter: will it change the way the political conversation takes place on social media? Will it change the dynamics between inorganic and organic behavior promoted by political actors in Venezuela?

We put together this explainer with ProBox and we also selected some relevant research about free speech, content moderation, and censorship from authoritarian regimes.

So, what happened?

Elon Musk bought Twitter. Until now, Twitter has been a public company that was regulated by a board. But now, if the company goes private, the social media platform will have fewer safeguards regarding its content moderation. Musk will have the power to reshape discourse on a social network used by more than 200 million people every day and undermine the work the company has made in the last couple of years to mitigate the spread of misinformation and hate speech. Some people celebrate Musk’s ideas regarding freedom of speech, but specialists and digital rights activists are worried that this is a step back that could undermine democracies, rather than strengthen them.

Could this affect the political conversation on Twitterzuela?

It’s logical to think that any changes made to Twitter rules and content moderation will affect the way we talk and find information on Twitter, especially because it’s more than a social media platform in Venezuela: In many cases, it’s our main channel to get information, especially for the Venezuelan diaspora.

The Venezuelan regime is very much aware of how important Twitterzuela conversations are to shape public opinion and it’s worked hard to stay as the main actor in political conversations on Twitter. This is why Maduro’s dictatorship has built a huge troop of people paid with State resources to pollute the Venezuelan digital conversation (sometimes international too), with the aim to confuse, manipulate and divert the attention from real problems denounced by civil society, independent media, journalists and activists through Twitter, and to attack and target harassment towards specific people or institutions.

Read more about how chavismo shapes political conversations on social media.

Twitterzuela has many problems and the Venezuelan regime has violated the digital rights of journalists, citizens, activists, and politicians by using coordinated inauthentic behavior accounts to impose their narrative on the platform.

Read the full article in Caracas Chronicles’ website here.

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