Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Musk’s Twitter “amnesty” plan for suspended accounts alarms activists

By Rebecca Falconer Axios

Elon Musk announced Thursday a “general amnesty” for suspended Twitter accounts from next week, “provided that they have not broken the law” or engaged in “egregious spam.”

Why it matters: Online monitoring groups have reported a rise in racism, anti-Semitism and other hate speech on Twitter since free speech advocate Musk completed his $44 billion acquisition of the social media company last month, though the billionaire said Thursday it has declined.

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

Driving the news: Musk tweeted his decision after 72.4% of over 3.1 million voters backed the amnesty in an online poll, which AP notes is an unscientific method that’s vulnerable to the influence of bots.

What they’re saying: “Superspreaders of hate, abuse and harassment will be the only people to benefit from this latest decision by Twitter,” said Imran Ahmed, CEO of campaign group the Center for Countering Digital Hate, to the Guardian.

  • “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.”
  • Hopewell Chin’ono, an award-winning Zimbabwean journalist, tweeted that the move would be “a major disaster especially in Africa where State sponsored Ghost accounts were suspended for endangering human rights activists & journalists!”
  • “You would have allowed vile people to put our lives in danger as journalists! You will have blood on your hands @elonmusk,” added Chin’ono in a warning ahead of the poll closing.

Between the lines: Alejandra Caraballo, clinical instructor at Harvard Law’s cyberlaw clinic, told the Washington Post that Musk’s planned action was “existentially dangerous” for marginalized communities.

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