- Far-right figures gained thousands of new Twitter followers in the 24 hours before Musk took over.
- Among those new followers, thousands were new to the platform, New York Times researchers said.
- Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert has gained nearly 18,700 followers, half of whom are new to Twitter.
In the 24 hours leading up to Elon Musk’s takeover, far-right figures gained thousands of followers, including many from newly created accounts, according to a digital investigation firm.
Memetica noted that several far-right figures have garnered a significant number of new followers, including thousands of accounts set up on the same day Musk sealed the deal.
Dan Scavino, a former White House chief of staff who served during the Trump administration, gained just over 16,000 new followers from accounts created on or after Oct. 27, according to Memetica.
Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert gained nearly 18,700 new followers in the 24 hours leading up to Musk’s acquisition, with almost half of those followers being new accounts. That was 1,200% more than the normal rate of new followers.
Ben Decker, Memetica’s CEO, told Insider the results are alarming because those who have garnered followers are “really known providers of disinformation, harassment and hate.”
While researchers still need clarification on Twitter’s moderation plans, he said that “Rome hasn’t officially burned down yet.”
“The research tells us that the rapid growth in followers of influential right-wing accounts, combined with calls on fringe platforms to attempt to return to Twitter, is likely to result in higher volumes of harassment, hate and politically motivated disinformation on the platform, at least in the short term, as the Twitter’s new management will be put to the ultimate test,” Decker said.
Other Twitter accounts with a surge in new followers include Kari Lake from Arizona with 18,000 followers including 3,100 new accounts; and conservative media personality Candace Owens, who amassed 3,700 followers, 2,300 of which were new.
These people pushed Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. “The more followers and reach these accounts have, the more circulation these ideas will have,” Decker told the New York Times.
Twitter didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment.
However, there is no evidence that the phenomenon is directly related to Musk becoming the new owner of the social media platform. The new accounts “could be an indication that far-right people are migrating back to Twitter as they see the potential for a friendlier environment,” Decker told the Times.
Meanwhile, Social Blade, a social media analytics firm, found that progressive politicians and celebrities were losing followers. Accounts with the biggest losses include former President Barack Obama, Rep. Alexandria Ocazio-Cortez, and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.
Musk’s ownership of Twitter worries some organizations. Paul Barrett, associate director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, told The Times, “The danger here is that Musk will turn back the clock in the name of ‘free speech’ and turn Twitter into a more powerful engine of hate , division and misinformation about elections, public health and international affairs.”
The self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist” billionaire addressed some of the concerns on a Friday tweetand said he would form a “Content-Moderation Council with very different viewpoints.”
Musk added, “No major content decisions or account restorations will be made until this council meets.”