Musk will restore Twitter accounts banned for harassment and misinformation

Suspension

Elon Musk plans to reinstate nearly all of his previously banned Twitter accounts — alarming activists and online trust and safety experts.

After a poll was posted on Twitter asking, “Should Twitter offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts, provided they don’t break the law or engage in egregious spam?” With 72.4% of respondents voting yes, Musk declared, “Amnesty starts next week.”

Twitter’s CEO on Thursday did not respond to a request for comment from The Post. The poll received more than 3 million votes.

Experts said the mass reinstatement of users who were banned for offenses such as violent threats, harassment, abuse, and misinformation would have a significant impact on the platform. And many wondered how to handle such a resurrection, since it’s unclear what Musk meant by “egregious spam” and the difficulty of separating users who “broke the law,” which varies widely by jurisdiction and country.

“Apple and Google need to seriously start exploring porting Twitter from the App Store,” said Alejandra Caraballo, clinical instructor at the Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic. “What Musk is doing is existentially dangerous to various marginalized communities. It’s like opening the gates of hell in terms of the chaos that it will wreak. People who have engaged in direct targeted harassment can come back and engage in cross-examination, targeted harassment, vicious bullying, calls for violence, and celebration of violence. I can’t even begin to say how serious that is.”

Insiders say Musk’s “freedom of expression” agenda is dismantling safe work at Twitter

This is the second time in a week that Musk has used a Twitter poll to make a major decision regarding the platform. On November 18, he reinstated former President Donald Trump’s account after 52 percent of respondents said he should. Musk tweeted in Latin, “Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” where “the voice of the people is the voice of God.”

That day, he also unilaterally reinstated at least 11 prominent far-right Twitter accounts, including Jordan Peterson, a professor who was banned from Twitter for misleading a transgender person, and Babylon Bee, a conservative media company. He also reinstated Project Veritas, a site that has been repeatedly accused of misrepresenting the events it commented on and banned “due to repeated violations of Twitter’s private information policy,” and the personal account of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, which has been banned since January for violating Platform Act-19 misinformation policies and advancing violent and extremist speech.

Experts say bots and bad actors can easily skew the results of a Twitter poll, so making decisions based on one is irresponsible. “A Twitter poll can be manipulated, nothing scientific or rigorous in any way,” said Sarah T. Roberts, an associate professor at UCLA and faculty director at UCLA’s Center for Online Critical Inquiry who previously worked on Twitter research. shapes about what he does.” Content modifications.

Roberts added, “Before Elon took over, there were entire teams of market and user research people, who followed strict protocols that were put in place to do this kind of research. Suddenly, he took Twitter out of completely unscientific polling people.” Anonymous people, and certainly not any kind of demographic representation of people.”

Many predicted that reinstating banned accounts would produce very poor results and help achieve the “free hell for all” that Musk promised advertisers would not pass in a message posted to Twitter the day he acquired the platform.

“This would be a major disaster especially in Africa where state-sponsored ghost accounts have been suspended for endangering human rights activists and journalists,” Hopewell Chinono, a journalist in Africa tweeted. “You would have allowed evil people to put our lives at risk as journalists! You would have @elonmusk blood on your hands.”

Twitter king Dril in Musk’s anarchic era

Whether Musk can do what the Twitter poll seeks is a matter of debate. He laid off the leaders of the trust and security team, which usually handles the logistics of reactivating accounts. Dismissal of those who “break the law” depends entirely on whether Twitter has detailed documentation for each comment that includes the local laws that the Tweet violated. Without such a legal filter, which would rely on state and local laws for each tweet, each account would require detailed review. Laws also vary widely by country and region.

Madeline Burkholder, a chief technology solutions architect who has worked on consumer products that manage spam, said Musk’s request didn’t make sense. “Fatal spam is not a technical term,” she said, and most big tech record-keeping operations do not include questions of local government legal codes. The rule is to simply note if an account violates a company’s terms of service, which are rules set by the platform, not any kind of law.

“It’s really heartbreaking to untangle these strands and find out the exact behavior that led to their suspension,” Burkholder said. “Was it an innocent mistake? Was it malicious? How harmful was it?… Doing it in one instance is a challenge, and trying to do it for every account ever, you’re guaranteed to make mistakes.”

Reinstating suspended accounts could mean bringing back networks of individuals that include the American Nazi Party and “the whole bunch of 8chan, 4chan, conspiracy theorists who engage,” said Angelo Carusone, chairman and president of Media Matters, a nonprofit advocacy and media oversight group. harassment and ill-treatment.” 8chan and 4chan are two message boards known for their racist and anti-Semitic posts.

Reversing the suspensions, Caruson said, would mean “turning Twitter into a one-stop-shop for purging and harassment activations, and an engine for radicalization.” “It’s Pez’s distributor of red beans.” And quitting Twitter won’t protect you. “Even if you’re not on Twitter, you can still be the beneficiary of these campaigns,” he said. He predicted that all public health officials, election officials, journalists and teachers would be targeted.

“Making large moderation and enforcement decisions on a whim is troubling behavior for a CEO,” said Nora Benavidez, senior counsel and director of digital justice and civil rights at Free Press, a nonprofit advocacy group. “Musk, under the auspices of democracy, is legitimizing decisions that would have very serious consequences in the real world.”

Benavidez said organizations including Free Press have spent years educating tech giants on complex trust and safety issues and “pressuring them to understand the really delicate and complex role they play in mitigating harm to real people.” If a “general amnesty” is granted for the majority of suspended accounts, Benavidez said, “it would be open season for people arrested for hate, harassment, misinformation, conspiracy, and extremism.” “It’s open season in the most dangerous way.”

“You have journalists and activists in authoritarian regimes in Africa, the Middle East and Asia who are now at the mercy of more evil trolls who don’t have the power to fight back,” said Caraballo. “It’s literally life or death for people.”

Advertisers are dropping Twitter. Musk can’t afford to lose any more.

The lifting of the suspension was particularly upsetting for LGBTQ activists, as it came just days after a mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs left five dead and 18 wounded. Several previously restored accounts had been suspended for hateful rhetoric toward the LGBT community, and Musk came under fire for his response. on Tim Paul, a right-wing YouTube star who falsely claimed the club hosted a “grooming event,” and other anti-LGBTQ accounts.

“It’s a slap in the face for gays,” said Caraballo.

In the days after he took over Twitter, Musk initially promised not to change the site’s moderation policies and restore accounts until he appointed a moderation board. Recently, however, Musk backtracked on naming such a board and laid off hundreds of Twitter employees whose job it was to police the site.

Dozens of Twitter advertisers have temporarily stopped spending with the platform in the wake of Musk’s takeover, concerned that his approach to content moderation might affect the site’s style.

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