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New study of journalists' tweets after Musk's takeover

Study shows more tweets from right leaning journalists after Musk’s takeover

Despite a perceived Twitter exodus only a small handful of journalists have deactivated their accounts since Elon Musk bought the company late last year and the number of daily journalist tweets has decreased just 3% overall. However, the change in tweeting activity is determined more by publication, Sarah Grevy Gotfredsen, researcher at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, writes.

 “Journalists in the database associated with right-leaning publications tended to tweet more following the Musk-takeover whereas journalists from left-leaning or neutral publications tended to tweet less.” 

An earlier Pew Research study showed that around seven-in-ten U.S. journalists say that Twitter is the site they use most or second most for their job. 

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Tow Center says research saw clear moments where the journalism community stepped back from the platform when it was bought by Elon Musk, particularly after changes to the verification system. 

Gotfredsen writes that while some journalists have entirely cut ties with Twitter, a Tow Center analysis of approximately 4,000 journalists from 19 U.S. news outlets suggests that they are a small minority. 

“The Tow Center collected historical data from June 1, 2022 to January 30, 2023 on journalists associated with multiple national and local U.S. publications.

“As a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” Musk has made Twitter feel more welcoming to members on the right who view the Musk-takeover as a free speech victory. This could help explain why journalists at right-leaning publications have been more active compared to journalists on the left.” 

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“Not only did Musk restore the accounts of numerous right-wingers such as former President Donald Trump, Jordan Peterson, and Babylon Bee, but he also laid off employees within Twitter the trust and safety space. These employees were responsible for a myriad of issues including content moderation, tackling hate speech, and addressing misinformation.” 

The study says there is a shift away from the pre-Musk Twitter where users were generally younger, better educated, and more likely to vote Democrat than the rest of the country. Now, Republicans are gaining tens of thousands of followers while Democratic counterparts are seeing a decline. 

“The Tow Center saw a similar trend among journalists in our analysis, with journalists from right-leaning publications on average gaining a few percent in followers and journalists from left-leaning publications losing 1 to 1.5%.”

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