Twitter owner Elon Musk granted amnesty to almost all banned accounts Thursday, a drastic policy shift that has alarmed many users and advertisers and opens the door for numerous high profile figures to stage potential comebacks and join the likes of former President Donald Trump and Kanye West who have had their accounts restored—here are some of the accounts that could return:
Here are some key facts
Steve Bannon: Trump’s former White House strategist was banned in November 2020 after suggesting Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be beheaded on a video posted to his Twitter account.
Mike Lindell: The MyPillow frontman has been banned from Twitter twice—once for spreading election misinformation and again for trying to skirt that ban with a new account—and has reportedly been desperately trying to meet Musk in an effort to be reinstated.
Lin WoodA prominent Trump-supporter lawyer had his account suspended after spreading conspiracy theories concerning the election. Also, he posted a tweet that incited violence to coincide with Jan. 6, insurrection. The suspension became permanent after he promised to post from another account.
Sidney Powell, Mike Flynn Ron Watkins: The trio of high-flying QAnon figures—respectively Trump’s former election advisor, national security advisor and former administrator of far-right website 8kun, formerly 8chan—were suspended for promoting baseless conspiracy theories that the presidential election was stolen from Trump.
Martin Shkreli: Widely criticized as the “pharma bro” who jacked up the price of a lifesaving antiparasitic drug, he was permanently banned in 2017 for attempting to evade a temporary ban imposed for the “targeted harassment” of a journalist.
Roger Stone: The former Trump advisor made a brief return to Twitter ahead of Musk’s takeover—he was swiftly re-banned—after being suspended for attacking journalists online in 2017.
Azealia BanksA: This was the rapper who has a history of trolling celebrities and making offensive tweets.
Katie Hopkins: The British media personality and controversial right wing commentator was kicked off Twitter in 2020 for violating its “hateful conduct” policy.
David Duke: The former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and brazen white supremacist was ousted from the platform in 2020 for repeatedly violating Twitter’s rules on hateful conduct.
Aubrey Huff: The former San Francisco Giants player downplayed the severity of Covid-19 online and was permanently suspended in 2021 for repeatedly violating Twitter’s policies on Covid misinformation.
Milo Yiannopoulos: The outspoken alt-right posterboy and former Breitbart editor—he is now assisting Kanye West on his 2024 presidential campaign—was banned in 2016 for harassing comedian and actor Leslie Jones.
Musk already reinstated a number of suspended accounts—typically right wing—unilaterally. Taking action last Friday—Musk dubbed it “Freedom Friday”—the likes of Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (banned for repeated Covid misinformation infractions), Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson (hateful conduct targeting trans people), satire site Babylon Bee (banned for anti-trans tweets), comedian Kathy Griffin (banned for impersonating Musk) and Kanye West, who legally changed his name to Ye (banned over antisemitic remarks). Musk was later allowed to reinstate former President Donald Trump who had been expelled for encouraging and glorifying violence in the wake of the Jan. 6, insurrection.
Musk on Thursday said he would grant “amnesty” to suspended Twitter accounts providing they were not banned for breaking the law or spam. The move follows an unscientific poll the billionaire conducted and will see accounts restored from “next week.” Musk has been a vocal and longstanding critic of Twitter’s moderation and suspension policies and openly stated his intention to change them when pursuing ownership of the company in favor of a more unfettered “free speech” approach. Though Musk vowed the platform would not become a “free-for-all hellscape” under his leadership, his botched attempts to overhaul Twitter’s verification scheme, drastic headcount reductions and relaxed approach to content moderation has spooked advertisers and regulators alike. Musk stated initially that accounts wouldn’t be reinstated until a diversity moderation council had been established to review any decisions. But he quickly changed his mind, and blamed social activist for apparently urging advertisers to boycott Twitter.
Many users have decided to abandon Twitter, in contrast with the return of suspended accounts. This includes prominent figures such as Whoopi Goldberg and Toni Braxton, Toni Braxton, and Gigi Hadid. Balenciaga is also seeing advertisers and companies leaving the platform. Since Musk became CEO, Twitter alternative platforms like Mastodon or Hive have seen a surge in interest as people try to get on board with other platforms.
What We Don’t Know
It is not clear how Musk or Twitter will sort through the many suspended accounts and pick which may return or how this might work given the company’s reduced headcount. Musk said that people banned for spam or other illegal acts will not be allowed back, however it’s unclear how this will work. Tweet lists series of policies for which infractions could technically garner bans—including content and conduct involving suicide or self-harm, violence, terrorism, abuse and harassment and posting private information—though it is not certain whether all of these are still in force. It is also unclear if there will be circumstances where policy violations, though legal, will still result in a ban—Twitter has previously taken a hard stance on people caught trying to circumvent temporary suspensions—or whether a degree of subjectivity will enter into the equation. Musk, to a certain extent, has already shown willingness to take this step and has unilaterally restored many accounts. He also said conspiracy theorist Alex Jones would remain off the platform, adding that he—as someone who has lost a child—has “no mercy” for a man who “would use the deaths of children for gain, politics or fame”.
The European Union published a report on Thursday that stated Twitter took longer to remove harmful content than it did the previous year. The research, an annual undertaking by the EU that was based on data collected before Musk acquired the platform, also outlined weaker performance among Twitter’s competitors, including Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. The issue is likely to compound fears already being voiced by regulators over Twitter’s ability to keep on top of hateful content and misinformation in light of Musk’s significant staffing cuts. Reports suggest that hate speech is on the rise and that the company has failed to respond to racist tweets directed towards footballers participating in the Qatar World Cup. The firm’s former safety lead, Yoel Roth, said there was a “surge in hateful conduct” after Musk acquired the platform. According to the The, previously banned individuals have been able to get back on the platform over the past few weeks. Guardian, which found accounts for parts of Britain’s far right movement back online using new accounts.
$191.6 billion. That’s Musk’s estimated net worth, according to SME’ real-time tracker. He is considered the world’s richest man. Twitter was acquired by him for $44Billion in October. His most notable achievements include cofounding Tesla’s electric carmaker, SpaceX Rocket Company and Boring Company tunneling company.
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