SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — New Twitter owner Elon Musk said Thursday he was granting “amnesty” to suspended accounts, which online safety experts say will spur an increase in harassment, speech hate and misinformation.
The billionaire’s announcement came after he asked in a poll posted on his timeline to vote on reinstatements for 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 phrase meaning “voice of the people, voice of God.”
Musk used the same Latin phrase after posting a similar poll last weekend before reinstating former President Donald Trump’s account, which Twitter had banned for encouraging the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021. Trump 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 included a upsurge in racial slurs against World Cup footballers that Twitter would not have acted.
The rise of harmful content is largely due to disorder following 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 prompted hundreds more to quit. Countless contractors responsible for content moderation have also been fired. Among those who quit due to a lack of faith in Musk’s desire to keep Twitter from turning into a chaos of unchecked talk were Twitter’s trust and safety chief, Yoel Roth.
Large advertisers have also abandoned the platform.
On October 28, the day after his takeover, Musk tweeted that no suspended accounts would be reinstated until Twitter was formed. a “content moderation board” with diverse viewpoints who 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 restored the personal account of far-right representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, which was 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 this month’s US midterm elections he urged “independent” people to vote Republican.
A European Union report published on Thursday said Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less of it this year compared to 2021. The report was based on data collected in the spring – before Musk acquired Twitter – as part of an annual assessment of the compliance of online platforms with the 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.