Elon Musk offers general amnesty to suspended Twitter accounts

Elon Musk offers general amnesty to suspended Twitter accounts

Poll organised by new owner backed reopening accounts, leading to fears ‘superspreaders of hate’ will return to social media platform

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Elon Musk has announced a general amnesty for suspended Twitter accounts in a move that brought a warning that “superspreaders of hate” will return to the social media platform.

Twitter’s new owner said an amnesty for blocked users would begin next week after a majority of votes in a poll on his account backed the move. Accounts suspended on Twitter include Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon, rightwing UK commentator Katie Hopkins and David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard.

Musk had launched a poll on Wednesday asking if a general amnesty should be offered to accounts provided they have not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam”. Musk did not specify which laws he meant. More than 3.1m votes were recorded by the poll, with 72% in favour of an amnesty.

Should Twitter offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts, provided that they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam?

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 23, 2022

Announcing the result, Musk tweeted: “The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week.” He added “Vox Populi, Vox Dei”, a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people [is] the voice of God.”

Musk’s announcement came days after he reinstated Trump’s account as well as the accounts for Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, former professional kickboxer Andrew Tate – whose extreme misogynistic views led to a Twitter ban in 2017 – and the unlocking of the account for US rapper Ye, formerly Kanye West, who was sanctioned last month for posting antisemitic comments.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate, a campaign group, said “superspreaders” of hateful content would benefit from the move and urged advertisers, many of whom have already paused spending on the platform, to stop funding Twitter.

“Superspreaders of hate, abuse and harassment will be the only people to benefit from this latest decision by Twitter,” said Imran Ahmed, chief executive of CCDH. “The choice for advertisers has never been starker: stick around and back Elon Musk, or protect their brands and ensure their marketing dollars aren’t used to enable the spread of hate, abuse and disinformation.”

Angelo Carusone, president of US campaign group Media Matters, which monitors “conservative misinformation”, said reversing the suspensions would turn Twitter into an “engine of radicalization”.

This week Musk ruled out the return of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has promoted the false claim that the Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax, saying he had “no mercy” for people who capitalise on the deaths of children for personal fame. Other banned Twitter accounts include the rightwing writer Milo Yiannopoulos and former BBC presenter David Icke.

Musk had previously said there would be no account reinstatements until a newly announced content moderation council had met. However, the Tesla CEO then said human rights groups “broke the deal” by urging advertisers to halt spending on the platform.