Elon Musk to grant ‘amnesty’ to suspended Twitter accounts

It is feared the move will cause a surge in harassment, hate speech and misinformation

Twitter owner Elon Musk has been becoming increasingly friendly on the platform with right-wing figures. . AP
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New Twitter owner Elon Musk is to grant an “amnesty” for suspended accounts, which online safety experts predict will lead to a rise in harassment, hate speech and misinformation.

The billionaire’s announcement on Thursday came after he asked in a poll posted to his timeline for users to vote on reinstatements for accounts that have not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam".

The yes vote was 72 per cent.

“The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week. Vox populi, vox dei,” Mr Musk tweeted using a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people, the voice of God".

Mr Musk used the same Latin phrase after posting a similar poll last last weekend before reinstating the account of former US president Donald Trump.

Twitter had banned Mr Trump for encouraging the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection. Mr Trump has said he will not return to Twitter but has not deleted his account.

Such online polls are anything but scientific and can easily be influenced by bots.

In the month since Mr Musk took over Twitter, groups that monitor the platform for racist, anti-Semitic and other toxic speech say they have been on the rise on the world’s public square.

That has included a surge in racist abuse of World Cup football players, which Twitter is accused of failing to act on.

The sudden rise in harmful content is in large part due to the disorder after Mr Musk’s decision to lay off half of the company’s workforce of 7,500, fire top executives and institute ultimatums that prompted hundreds more to quit.

Also let go were an untold number of contractors responsible for content moderation.

Among those resigning over a lack of faith in Mr Musk's plans for the platform were Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth.

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Major advertisers have also abandoned the platform.

On October 28, the day after he took control, Mr Musk tweeted that no suspended accounts would be reinstated until Twitter formed a “content moderation council” with diverse viewpoints that would consider the cases.

On Tuesday, he said he was reneging on that promise because he had agreed to it at the insistence of “a large coalition of political-social activists groups” who later ”broke the deal” by urging that advertisers at least temporarily stop giving Twitter their business.

A day earlier, Twitter reinstated the personal account of far-right Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, which was closed in January for breaching the platform’s Covid misinformation policies.

Mr Musk has been getting increasingly friendly on Twitter with right-wing figures. Before this month’s US midterm elections he urged “independent-minded” people to vote Republican.

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A report from the EU published on Thursday said Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less of it this year compared with 2021.

The report was based on data collected over the spring, before Mr Musk acquired Twitter, as part of an annual evaluation 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 about illegal hate speech within 24 hours, down from 82 per cent in 2021.

Updated: November 24, 2022, 11:08 PM