Musk’s Twitter “pardon” plan for suspended accounts has activists worried

Elon Musk gestures during an event in February near Boca Chica Village, Texas. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Elon Musk announced Thursday a “general pardon” for suspended Twitter accounts from next week “provided they don’t break the law” or engage in “horrible spam.”

why does it matter: Online watchdog 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, although the billionaire He said Thursday has gone down.

Screenshot of a tweet from Elon Musk that says "People have spoken" After his unscientific poll results showed that most of those who voted wanted pardons for suspended Twitter accounts.
Photo: Elon Musk/Twitter
  • Activists have warned that the situation will only get worse if people like former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke are welcomed back after a permanent ban on hate speech.

Driving news: musk chirp His decision after 72.4% of more than 3.1 million voters supported the pardon in an online poll, which the Associated Press noted was an unscientific method vulnerable to botnet influence.

what are they saying: “The spread of hate, abuse and harassment will be the only people who will benefit from this latest decision by Twitter,” Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Digital Hate’s campaign group, told the Guardian.

  • “The choice for advertisers has never been clearer: stick with and support Elon Musk, or protect their brands and ensure their marketing dollars are not used to enable the spread of hate, abuse, and misinformation.”
  • Hopewell Chinonu, award-winning Zimbabwean journalist, chirp that the move would be “a major disaster especially in Africa where state-sponsored ghost accounts have been suspended for endangering human rights activists and journalists!”
  • “You would allow evil people to endanger our lives as journalists! You will have @elonmusk blood on your hands,” Chinono added in a warning before polls closed.

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

  • “It’s like opening the gates of hell in terms of the chaos that you’re going to create,” Caraballo said.
  • “People who have engaged in direct targeted harassment can go back and engage in defamation, targeted harassment, vicious bullying, calls for violence, and celebration of violence. I can’t even begin to say how serious that is.”
  • Caraballo said that Apple and Google should seriously consider “taking Twitter off the App Store.”

The Big Picture: Groups such as the Center for Combating Digital Hate have reported arise In racism on Twitter since Musk took control, including research suggesting he failed to act on “99% of the racist abuse” of soccer players in the run-up to the Men’s World Cup in Qatar.

  • Many advertisers have slowed down or paused purchases on the platform or left altogether. Musk blamed Twitter’s “massive drop in revenue” this month on “activist groups’ pressure on advertisers.”

worth nothing: Musk vowed to interested advertisers after the Twitter takeover that the platform would not become a “free-for-all” and chirp On Thursday, that hate speech dropped on the site after a “high.”

  • “I have half a brain to wag my finger at the 1,500 accounts that caused the rally, but I will find out,” He said.
  • Musk said last week that he would de-emphasize “hate” or “negative” tweets, while he had previously suspended the accounts.

plot: While Musk has yet to indicate which banned users might be affected by the planned pardon, last week he categorically ruled out reinstating the Twitter account of far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Screenshot of a tweet by Elon Musk saying hate speech has gone down.
Photo: Elon Musk/Twitter

deepen: Competitors see opening in Twitter’s chaos

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with more comments from Musk and additional context.

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