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Hundreds of lawmakers have been quick to sign up for Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s new app Threads, the world’s fastest-growing social media network and potential threat to Twitter.
The latest online platform comes as Democrats and Republicans have long scrutinized Big Tech’s market power and social media companies’ data privacy and content practices. Recently, they’ve criticized tech leaders over censorship claims, misinformation, illegal activity conducted on their sites, and algorithms promoting so-called toxic content—such as eating disorders, harassment and substance abuse—to children.
Members of Congress for now appear to be largely putting those concerns aside rather than risk missing out of a popular new communications tool.
Almost half of Congress—at least 194 House members and 48 senators—are among the more than 100 million users that have joined Threads since its inception on July 6, a survey by Bloomberg Government found. Democrats so far outnumber Republicans on the platform, yet both parties agree it’s another way to get their messaging out to Americans.
The pace at which Democrats, who generally tend to post more on social media than Republicans, have joined Threads is most stark in the House, where at least 142 members have made accounts compared to the GOP’s 52.
The early disparity could disappear as the app takes hold, but part of the explosion could be the result of Democrats’ growing disdain for Elon Musk’s overhaul of Twitter. Since the Tesla CEO bought the app last fall, there have been mass layoffs and sweeping changes to its content moderation and verification rules. Republicans, meanwhile, have gradually warmed up to Musk, who has espoused support for the party.
Several new apps have raced to replace Twitter, yet none have jolted the industry like Threads. Still, no lawmaker that Bloomberg Government spoke to about Threads was willing to shift platforms and delete Twitter entirely.
Social media skepticism
Many lawmakers took shots at social media, but either joined Threads or said they’d be open to creating an account.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who hasn’t yet posted on Threads but has gained 240,000 followers, welcomed more competition. But she added, “having two billionaires instead of one billionaire, each of whom just goes into a closet and makes up the rules on their own, is not the kind of robust competition we need.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who boasts 1.4 million followers on Twitter, said he has no plans to be on Threads but would consider joining if it becomes a useful method to communicate with constituents.
“My general approach: I don’t like social media. I spend like no time on social media. I’m obviously a big critic of it,” Hawley said. “This is not something that I’m excited about.”
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) is similarly critical. His team created personal and congressional accounts for him on Threads that have a combined 32,000 followers, but he hasn’t engaged with it yet.
“I got beef with Zuckerberg and so I’m adverse to it,” Bowman said. “I’m waiting for more women, more people of color and more working-class people to create social media platforms for us to engage with in a way that makes us better as a society.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who has racked up over 18,000 followers on Threads, said she was excited for the Twitter rival but that she was not ready to forgo Musk’s app despite her concerns about its hate speech policies.
“I just want to make sure that I can continue and access my constituents. But if I find that the preponderance of my constituents have moved over, and it’s duplicative, then that would make it easier for me to go ahead and delete the Twitter,” Duckworth said.
Some lawmakers already see the popular app as a viable alternative to Musk’s increasingly controversial Twitter. Others are more skeptical.
Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a social media firebrand whose personal Threads account has topped 1 million followers, said she joined the platform due to ongoing problems with Twitter.
“Unfortunately, you know, for an account like mine, changes at Twitter have made it extremely difficult and practically unusable,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And the harassment has just gotten to a level that is just unsustainable.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said she’s undecided about getting on Threads because of past dust-ups with social media policies.
“I know it has a lot of users, but as someone who got kicked off of Twitter for a year, I’m not interested in any type of social media platform that’s going to censor people,” she said. “I am concerned. I think I’ll wait and see.”
Some members struck a less partisan tone toward the nine-day-old Threads.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who’s pushed to ban TikTok over national security concerns related to its Chinese parent company ByteDance, dubbed the new app “Instagram without pictures.”
“You just want to reach as many people wherever they are,” he said, posting so far about politics, a UFC fight, and a movie recommendation to his almost 78,000 followers.
For lawmakers up for re-election in 2024, joining Threads can help ensure they are reaching as many voters as possible. Both Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairs of the Senate campaign arms for their respective parties, said candidates should get on the new app.
As for notoriously prolific tweeter Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), he remains a loyal Twitter devotee, with no current desire to open a Threads account.
“I’ve got a full-time job just keeping my Twitter account up,” Grassley said. “I’m going to follow Twitter whether Musk owns it or somebody else owns it.”
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