SAN FRANCISCO — New Twitter owner Elon Musk on Thursday said he is granting “amnesty” to suspended accounts, which online safety experts say will spur an increase in harassment, hate speech and misinformation.
The billionaire’s announcement came after he asked in a poll posted on his timeline to vote on reinstating accounts that have not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spamming”. The yes was 72%.
“The people have spoken. The amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei, Musk tweeted using a Latin expression meaning “the voice of the people, the voice of God”.
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Musk used the same Latin phrase after posting a similar poll last weekend before reinstating former President Donald Trump’s account, which Twitter banned for encouraging the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump said said he would not return to Twitter but did not delete his account.
Such online surveys are anything but scientific and can easily be influenced by bots.
In the month since Musk took over Twitter, groups that monitor the platform for racist, anti-Semitic and other toxic slurs say it’s on the rise in the world’s de facto public square. This has included an increase in racist abuse against World Cup soccer players that Twitter allegedly did not act on.
The increase in harmful content is largely due to the mess that followed Musk’s decision to lay off half of the company’s 7,500 employees, fire top executives, and then institute a series of ultimatums that have prompted hundreds more to quit. Countless contractors responsible for content moderation have also been fired. Among those who resigned due to a lack of faith in Musk’s desire to keep Twitter from devolving into a havoc of unchecked talk was Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth.
Major advertisers have also abandoned the platform.
On Oct. 28, the day after his takeover, Musk tweeted that no suspended accounts would be reinstated until Twitter formed a “content moderation council” with various views that would review the cases.
On Tuesday, he said he was going back to that promise because he agreed at the insistence of a “broad coalition of political-social activist groups” who later “broke the deal” by urging the advertisers to at least temporarily stop giving Twitter their Business.
A day earlier, Twitter had reinstated the personal account of far-right representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who had been banned in January for violating the platform’s COVID misinformation policies.
Musk, meanwhile, is increasingly becoming friends on Twitter with right-wing figures. Ahead of the US midterm elections this month, he urged “independent-minded” people to vote Republican.
A European Union report released on Thursday says Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less this year compared to 2021. The report was based on data collected in the spring – before Musk took action. acquires Twitter – as part of an annual assessment of online platforms’ compliance with the bloc’s code of conduct on disinformation. It found that Twitter assessed just over half of the notifications it received for illegal hate speech within 24 hours, up from 82% in 2021.