Musk’s Twitter ‘amnesty’ plan for suspended accounts alarms activists

Elon Musk gestures at an event in February near the village of Boca Chica, Texas. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Elon Musk announced on Thursday a “blanket amnesty” for Twitter accounts suspended from next week, “provided they have not broken the law” or engaged in “flagrant spamming”.

Why is this important: Online watch groups have reported a rise of racismanti-Semitism and other hate speech on Twitter since defender of freedom of expression Musk completed his $44 billion acquisition of the social media company last month, although the billionaire said Thursday, it decreased.

A screenshot of a tweet from Elon Musk saying "people have spoken" after his unscientific poll results showed most voters wanted an amnesty for suspended Twitter accounts.
Photo: Elon Musk/Twitter
  • Activists warn the situation would get worse if people like the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke were welcomed back after permanent bans for hate speech.

Driving the news: Musk tweeted his decision after 72.4% of more than 3.1 million voters backed amnesty in an online poll, which PA Ratings is an unscientific method that is vulnerable to the influence of bots.

What they say : “Superspreaders of hate, abuse and harassment will be the only ones to benefit from this latest move by Twitter,” Imran Ahmed, CEO of campaign group Center for Countering Digital Hate, told AFP. the Guardian.

  • “The choice for advertisers has never been tougher: stay and support Elon Musk, or protect their brands and ensure their marketing dollars are not used to help spread hate, abuse and disinformation.”
  • Hopewell Chin’ono, award-winning Zimbabwean journalist, tweeted that this decision would be “a major disaster, especially in Africa where state-sponsored Ghost accounts have been suspended for endangering human rights activists and journalists!”
  • “You would have allowed despicable people to endanger our lives as journalists! You will have blood on your hands @elonmusk,” Chin’ono added in a warning before the polls closed.

Between the lines: Alejandra Caraballo, clinical instructor at Harvard Law’s cyberlaw clinic, said 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 intimidation, calls for violence, celebration of violence. I can’t even begin to say how dangerous it will be.”
  • Caraballo said Apple and Google should seriously consider “starting Twitter from the App Store.”

The big picture: Groups like the Center for Countering Digital Hate have reported arise in racism on Twitter since Musk took over, including research indicating he hasn’t acted on ‘99% of racist abuse’ of football players in the run-up to the men’s world cup in Qatar.

  • Many advertisers have slowed down or paused their purchases on the platform or abandoned. blamed musk Twitter’s “massive drop in revenue” this month on “activist groups pressuring advertisers”.

To note: Musk got engaged to advertisers worried after taking over Twitter that the platform would not become a “free-for-all hellscape” and tweeted Thursday, this hate speech had declined on the site following a “peak”.

  • “I half want to wiggle my finger at the 1500 accounts that caused the spike, but I won’t,” he said.
  • Musk said last week he would devalue “hateful” or “negative” tweets while also reinstating previously suspended accounts.

The plot: While Musk had yet to indicate which banned users might be affected by the planned amnesty, he last week outright excluded restore the Twitter account of a far-right conspirator Alex Jones.

A screenshot of a tweet from Elon Musk saying hate speech has gone down.
Photo: Elon Musk/Twitter

Go further: Rivals see opening in Twitter chaos

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with more comments from Musk and more context.

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