When Tesla CEO Elon Musk In early 2022, Florida’s governor first considered buying Twitter. ron desantis is one of many Republicans who have publicly cheered the tech billionaire’s pursuit of the social media platform, which conservatives have long viewed as hostile to them.
But DeSantis pressed deeper than most Republican officials. A Florida pension fund’s investment in the company is up in the air, and the governor has vowed to turn the country’s third-largest state against Twitter’s board if they don’t sell to Musk.
“We’ll be looking at the way Florida might go after these Twitter boards for violating their fiduciary duties,” he said in April 2022. “Stay tuned.”
Now, a year after DeSantis became Musk’s assistant, the Silicon Valley tycoon is paying him back.Desantis launched his presidential campaign Wednesday via Twitter Musk joins Florida governor Announced on the website he now owns with $44 billion in sales. But the event was postponed due to a website outage, with host and tech mogul David Sachs blaming Twitter’s heavy traffic for “melting the servers”.
The alliance between DeSantis and Musk has been brewing for some time. Last June, Musk tweeted that he was leaning toward backing DeSantis in 2024, though he had said he would not be making an endorsement on Wednesday. They have a similar rejection of Covid-19 mitigation strategies and people sharing their pronouns to declare their gender. DeSantis also recently began describing Progressive Cause as a “clear mind virus,” a term Musk uses often.
In rolling out the virtual red carpet for Florida’s governor, Musk gave DeSantis a platform to speak directly to right-wing influencers who have become some of Twitter’s most active users under its new ownership one. Meanwhile, DeSantis has proven himself embroiled in debates that regularly whip up 280 characters on Twitter — from gas stoves and Bud Light to the past use of the “n” by Pennsylvania swimmers Leah Thomas and Joe Rogan. Word — and his political team often promotes posts focused on conservative accounts that “own the library.” Kicking off his campaign on Twitter — itself a litmus test of culture clashes under Musk — has further embraced a key audience seen as driving support for the Republican nominee.
It also conveniently elevated him to a platform that once made Donald Trump a Republican star before he was banned from the site and forced to launch a rival platform after the events of Jan. 6, 2021. Pro-Trump super PACs slammed the pick as “one of the most unrealistic campaigns in modern history.” Meanwhile, on the other end of the Republican spectrum, former U.S. Rep. Adam Kinsinger questioned the choice of moderator, venture capitalist David Sachs. Sachs, a former donor to DeSantis’ political activism, is a prominent critic of the war in Ukraine, where DeSantis has faced pushback from some Republicans for his equivocal remarks about the Russian invasion on the issue.
“I don’t really understand that,” Kinzinger told CNN Tuesday night. But he added, “Of course, he might get more attention that way.”
The racket from far and wide illustrates the shared risks Musk and DeSantis face when they face the precipice of a major challenge. DeSantis’ White House race faces an uphill climb with Trump, and the candidate is in the unique position as a former president that no Republican can successfully contest control of the party.
Seven months after Musk used his fortune to buy Twitter and promised to make the social media site “better than ever,” Twitter’s future has never been more certain. Advertisers and users have fled the platform under Musk’s erratic leadership, including his promotion of conspiracy theories and his outreach to far-right figures. Backing DeSantis appeared to contradict his own criticism of the platform, which he said had favored Democrats too much under its previous ownership.
“Social media is currently in great danger of splintering into far-right and far-left echo chambers, which will generate more hate and divide our society,” he wrote, pleading for the company to advertise on Twitter. “In their relentless pursuit of clicks, many traditional media outlets have fostered and pandered to those polarizing extremes because they believe it’s what brings in money, but in doing so they lose the conversation.”
Years ago, Twitter was an unlikely venue for DeSantis to launch his bid for the White House. DeSantis joined the site in 2012 as a candidate for the US House of Representatives. His first post was a tribute to the late conservative media pioneer Andrew Breitbart, whom DeSantis called “the king of Twitter.” Over the next six years, his following modestly grew to 11,000 followers with very little posting — at least compared to Trump’s constant posting.
As governor, DeSantis has repeatedly sparred with social media platforms and tech companies that they censor conservative voices, and in 2021 he supported a new state law that would require tech platforms to block or demote Content that may conflict with it is illegal. terms of service and provided avenues for some to sue.
The Computer and Communications Industry Association, an organization representing technology companies including Twitter, successfully sued to prevent the law from taking effect. A judge ruled that the law “forces providers to host speeches that violate their standards.”
“Like previous First Amendment restrictions, this is an example of a house burning and a hog,” the judge wrote. (The state has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which means Twitter and Florida are still in a legal dispute at the time of DeSantis’ announcement.)
DeSantis himself has previously said that he has had very little contact with the site. After his official governor’s account came under fire for posting that “voting is a privilege,” DeSantis distanced himself from that message by revealing that he doesn’t write his own tweets.
“I don’t tweet, so you can talk to my staff about what I say,” he said in 2020.
Like many Republicans, however, DeSantis has backed Musk’s effort to buy Twitter as a potential turning point for conservatives in tech, and his recent agenda has often clashed with the South African billionaire’s populist priorities overlapping.
DeSantis’ threat to intervene on Twitter’s behalf last year ultimately fell through — Twitter’s board agreed to a sale shortly after DeSantis stepped in, and Musk tried to pull out — but he seized on the Silicon Valley conflict as another front in Twitter’s ongoing culture war.
“I hope Musk will step in and he’ll end Twitter’s role as a censor for the regime,” DeSantis said at a political event in Nevada shortly after Twitter accepted the deal.
While Musk vowed to be a “free speech absolutist,” the way he wielded his new powers as “Twitter chief” shocked many users and drew widespread criticism. Under his leadership, Twitter mistook PBS and NPR for state media, suspended journalists from the platform after unfriendly coverage of Musk, and bowed to foreign demands to remove or block certain content.
Musk recently defended Twitter’s decision to restrict access to certain Twitter content in Turkey, saying it was necessary to keep the site available in some capacity in Turkey. The move was roundly mocked by Enes Kanter Freedom, a Turkey-born former NBA player and fierce critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Before criticizing Musk, Kanter Freedom had become a conservative icon for speaking out against basketball star LeBron James and the league’s business ties to China. DeSantis met with Kanter Freedom and invited him to move to Florida.
After Musk’s latest move, Kantor told CNN, “I don’t want to hear Elon Musk talk about free speech anymore.”
An announcement from DeSantis updated this story.