Elon Musk announced a “general amnesty” for suspended Twitter accounts from next week, “provided that they have not broken the law” or engaged in “egregious spam.”
Why it matters: Online monitoring groups have reported a rise in racism, anti-Semitism and other hate speech on Twitter since Musk completed his $44 billion acquisition of the firm last month.
- They warn it’ll get much worse if people like former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke are welcomed back following permanent bans for hate speech.
Driving the news: Musk reached his decision after 72.4% of over 3.1 million voters backed the move in an online poll, which AP notes is an unscientific method that’s vulnerable to the influence of bots.
- It comes days after Musk reinstated the Twitter accounts of prominent users including former President Trump, who was banned in 2021 following the U.S. Capitol riot, and Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, whose page was restricted last month due to antisemitic tweets.
What they’re saying: “Superspreaders of hate, abuse and harassment will be the only people to benefit from this latest decision by Twitter,” said Imran Ahmed, CEO of campaign group the Center for Countering Digital Hate, to the Guardian.
- “The choice for advertisers has never been starker: stick around and back Elon Musk, or protect their brands and ensure their marketing dollars aren’t used to enable the spread of hate, abuse and disinformation.”
- Hopewell Chin’ono, an award-winning Zimbabwean journalist, tweeted that the move would be “a major disaster especially in Africa where State sponsored Ghost accounts were suspended for endangering human rights activists & journalists!”
- “You would have allowed vile people to put our lives in danger as journalists! You will have blood on your hands @elonmusk,” added Chin’ono in a warning ahead of the poll closing.
Between the lines: Alejandra Caraballo, clinical instructor at Harvard Law’s cyberlaw clinic, told the Washington Post that Musk’s planned action was “existentially dangerous” for marginalized communities.
- “It’s like opening the gates of hell in terms of the havoc it will cause,” Caraballo said.
- “People who engaged in direct targeted harassment can come back and engage in doxing, targeted harassment, vicious bullying, calls for violence, celebration of violence. I can’t even begin to state how dangerous this will be.”
- Caraballo said Apple and Google should seriously consider “booting Twitter off the app store.”
The big picture: Groups like the Center for Countering Digital Hate have reported a rise in racism on Twitter since Musk took over, including research indicating it failed to act on “99% of racist abuse” of soccer players in the leadup to the World Cup.
- Many advertisers have slowed or paused their purchases on the platform or left altogether. Free speech advocate Musk blamed Twitter’s “massive drop in revenue” this month on “activist groups pressuring advertisers.”
Worth noting: Musk pledged to concerned advertisers after taking over Twitter that the social media site would not become a “free-for-all hellscape.”
- The billionaire said last week he’d deemphasize “hate” or “negative” tweets while also having previously suspended accounts reinstated.
The intrigue: While Musk had yet to indicate which banned users may be affected by the planned amnesty, he last week flatly ruled out reinstating the Twitter account of far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Rebecca Falconer