As Threads Tops 100M Users, CNBC ‘Squawk Box’ Co-Host Joe Kernen Says Notion Of Twitter Under Threat Is Just “Mainstream Media” Hype: “I Wouldn’t Sell Elon Musk Short”

Business

Joe Kernen, co-host of CNBC’s Squawk Box, took aim at what he called “mainstream media” hype about the potential for Meta Platforms’ Threads to kill Twitter, insisting he is “not mainstream media.” He also said he “wouldn’t sell Elon Musk short” in the social media competition.

This morning’s exchange with Axios business editor Dan Primack (see video below) came during a segment noting that the Instagram-backed Threads has passed 100 million users in less than a week. That initial growth rate beat that of Chat GPT, which was previously the fastest application to reach the milestone.

Kernen, who has never exactly been shy about expressing his right-of-center views on the show, did most of the talking. He argued that media coverage of Threads has been laudatory because of the fact that the Meta service has explicitly sought to de-emphasize politics and other controversial content verticals.

One of the primary drivers of Elon Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of Twitter last fall, by contrast, was Musk’s insistence that Twitter should be a “public square” with absolute freedom of expression. He felt prior management had erred in booting certain people off the platform or placing labels on certain content (though Musk has enacted similar restrictions, particularly with members of the press who have been critical of his turbulent stint as Twitter’s owner. After dithering for years about whether to sanction users, the previous Twitter regime took action during the Covid pandemic and in the aftermath of the 2020 election. Former President Donald Trump and many of his followers were kicked off the platform for spreading lies and disinformation about the election. Many have had their accounts restored by Musk.

“Are we expressing surprise that mainstream media prefers the old Twitter and Facebook?” Kernen asked. Those services, he went on, “totally did their bidding for exactly what they wanted people to see and not see. … It was so blatantly apparent that Elon Musk had to spend $40 billion just to right the ship.”

Primack responded, “You think he’s righted the ship?!”

Replied Kernen, “Yeah, I do. Of course, mainstream media’s going to say, ‘It’s awful and all these memes and things are happening on Twitter right now!’ I think [CEO Linda] Yaccarino’s going to do a great job. I like Twitter much better than I liked it before, when you couldn’t see things. I’m not mainstream media – that’s why.”

In Kernen’s view, media members were more comfortable with certain content not being available on social media. “You shouldn’t be surprised that mainstream media loves Mark Zuckerberg again because now you don’t see any of that mean stuff that you don’t want to see,” he said. Favorable coverage of Threads, he added, is based on the new service “being a kinder, gentler place” reminiscent of “the old Twitter.” Information Musk has allowed — like The Babylon Bee, Covid vaccine skepticism and information about Hunter Biden’s laptop — is largely absent on Threads.

“None of the stuff that that group of people wanted to see was there” on the old Twitter, Kernen said. “And now it’s going to be like that on Threads, so they’re going to embrace that as a home instead of all the unsettling stuff.”

Primack said he felt that coverage had been driven by Threads’ immediate ability to achieve scale. “Those are just numbers you can’t ignore,” he said.

Kernen closed with a reference to a digital meteor that burned bright before fading. “We’ll see if this is Clubhouse or a Twitter killer,” he said. “I wouldn’t sell Elon Musk short.”

Here is the clip:

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