After Online Vote, Musk Says Banned Accounts Will Return

Watchdogs fear platform will be 'an engine for radicalization'
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 24, 2022 5:35 PM CST
Updated Nov 24, 2022 9:00 PM CST
Musk Announces He'll Restore Suspended Accounts
A Twitter logo hangs outside the company's San Francisco offices on Nov. 1.   (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Elon Musk announced Thursday that he'll reinstate almost all Twitter accounts that had been suspended by the platform's previous owners, a move that alarmed experts and sparked calls for moves against the company. He posted his decision after opening a vote Wednesday on the site, in which he asked users: "Should Twitter offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts, provided that they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam?" When voting ended Thursday afternoon, the site showed more than 3 million votes were cast, with 72.4% backing the proposition and 27.6% opposed to it, CNN reports.

"The people have spoken," Musk then tweeted, as he did last week in announcing he was restoring former President Donald Trump's account. "Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei." Online polls are not scientific, the AP points out, and can be skewed by bots. The users had been shut down for posting violent threats, harassment, abuse, and misinformation, per the Washington Post. Experts said this is Musk's biggest step yet to dismantle Twitter's policies to bar people who repeatedly break the rules. In the first month of Musk's ownership, watchdog groups have seen an increase in hate speech on Twitter, including racist abuse of players at the World Cup tournament in Qatar.

"Apple and Google need to seriously start exploring booting Twitter off the app store," said Alejandra Caraballo of Harvard Law’s cyberlaw clinic. "What Musk is doing is existentially dangerous for various marginalized communities," he said, adding, "People who engaged in direct targeted harassment can come back and engage in doxing, targeted harassment, vicious bullying, calls for violence, celebration of violence." Other experts said the American Nazi Party and various conspiracy theorists could return, making Twitter what Angelo Carusone of Media Matters called "an engine of radicalization." Quitting Twitter offers no protection. "You can still be the recipient of these campaigns," Carusone said. Analysts aren't convinced Musk has the ability to restore the accounts after his mass layoffs. He fired several dozen more engineers and others the night before Thanksgiving, per the Daily Beast. (Read more Twitter stories.)

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