“The people have spoken” once again, this time opening the floodgates to an unknown number of banned accounts on Twitter returning.
After one of his Twitter polls found that 72.4% of respondents support the decision, new boss Elon Musk said he will offer a “general amnesty to suspended accounts.”
“Amnesty begins next week,” Musk posted while most in the U.S. was deep into Thanksgiving turkey and football. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” he added, a Latin phrase that translates to “the voice of the people is the voice of God.”
It is not clear exactly how many of the hundreds of thousands of accounts that were banned before Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of Twitter in October will qualify for the so-called amnesty.
Twitter axed more than 250,000 accounts from February to August 2016 alone, according to Mediaite. It’s likely that banned accounts held by the likes of former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, Trayvon Martin’s killer George Zimmerman, Trump advisors Roger Stone and far-right activist Laura Loomer will be reactivated next week.
Musk reinstated the account of Donald Trump last week after posting a similar poll , but the former president has a contract with his own Truth Social that requires any social media posts to go to that site first, and has not yet posted anything Twitter.
Trump previously said he would not return to the platform, but he used it as a powerful tool in his earlier campaigns. Last week, he launched his third run for the White House, so he may yet start posting.
Musk also brought back Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, even after the rapper said he would buy rival site Parler following his Twitter ban over antisemitic comments, along with other celebs including Kathy Griffin and Jordan Peterson.
One account that will not be restored, however, is that of far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who was ordered last month to pay nearly $1 billion in damages to the families of children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre after his repeated false claims that the school shooting was staged.
“My firstborn child died in my arms,” Musk tweeted in response to pleas to restore Jones’ account. “I felt his last heartbeat. I have no mercy for anyone who would use the deaths of children for gain, politics or fame.”
In response to a post Wednesday that said whatever is decided about restoring accounts, Twitter should be “clear and consistent about its rules and penalties for breaking them, enforcement should be unbiased, and the mechanisms of enforcement shouldn’t be easily abused by people who have an agenda,” Musk said, “The more I learn, the worse it gets.”
“The world should know the truth of what has been happening at Twitter. Transparency will earn the trust of the people,” the world’s richest man posted.
“It is objectively the case that ‘conservative’ political candidates were more negatively affected than ‘progressive’ candidates,” he added. “Anyone using Twitter knows this. Question is simply one of magnitude.”
The move comes at a time when Twitter is operating with a vastly reduced staff, after Musk fired half of the workers he inherited in his first few weeks, then saw an exodus of remaining employees after he demanded they agreed to a “hardcore” work atmosphere that among other things required a return to the office and an expectation that they would put in more than 40 hours per week. Much of the content moderation team is reportedly gone.
It also reflects a broken pledge from Musk that he would not reinstate any accounts before a content moderation council was in place.
Activist groups behind the #StopToxicTwitter campaign, which is working to convince advertisers to pull their support from the platform, say Musk’s moves since he bought the platform have opened it to a huge stream of new hate speech and left vulnerable users open for targeting.
“He drastically changed a major policy banning hate speech to a vague rule where hateful tweets can remain on the site, but supposedly won’t be amplified or monetized. He has thus far failed to provide any details on how this might happen,” posted Tim Karr, communications director at Free Press, which helped found the effort. Karr claimed the campaign has moved 50 of Twitter’s 100 top advertisers to pull their ads.
“Rather than attacking our groups, Musk would benefit from listening to what we have to say,” Karr added. “Until then, advertisers will continue to head for the exits as his plans of creating a successful online enterprise circle the drain.”