Musk says he’s granting “amnesty” to suspended Twitter accounts

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk said Thursday he will grant “amnesty” to suspended accounts, which online security experts predict will lead to an increase in harassment, hate speech and misinformation

The billionaire’s announcement came after he asked in a poll posted on his timeline to vote for the reinstatement of accounts that have not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam.” The yes was 72%.

“The people have spoken. The amnesty starts next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted with a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people, the voice of God.”

Musk used the same Latin phrase after posting a similar poll last weekend before reinstating former President Donald Trump’s account, which Twitter had banned for encouraging the Capitol Hill uprising on January 6, 2021. Trump has said that he will not return to Twitter but has not deleted his account.

These online surveys are anything but scientific and can easily be influenced by bots.

In the month since Musk took over Twitter, groups that monitor the platform for racist, anti-Semitic and other toxic speech say it has increasingly become the world’s de facto public square. This has included an increase in racist abuse of World Cup soccer players that Twitter is allegedly failing to act on.

The rise in harmful content is largely due to the disarray after Musk’s decision to lay off half of the company’s 7,500-person workforce, fire top executives and then institute a series of ultimatums that led to that hundreds more left. An untold number of content moderation contractors were also let go. Among those who resigned over a lack of faith in Musk’s will to prevent Twitter from becoming a chaos of uncontrolled speech was Twitter’s head of trust and security, Yoel Roth.

Major advertisers have also left the platform.

On October 28, the day after taking control, Musk tweeted that no suspended accounts would be reinstated until Twitter formed a “content moderation board” with diverse viewpoints to consider the cases .

On Tuesday, he said he was reneging on that promise because he had accepted it at the insistence of “a large coalition of political and social activist groups” who then “broke the deal” by urging that advertisers, at least temporarily, stop give Twitter your business.

A day earlier, Twitter reinstated the personal account of far-right MP Marjorie Taylor Greene, which was banned in January for violating the platform’s COVID misinformation policies.

Musk, meanwhile, has become increasingly friendly on Twitter with right-wing figures. Ahead of the US midterm elections this month, he urged “independence” people to vote Republican.

A European Union report released Thursday said Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less of it this year compared to 2021. The report was based on data collected in the spring, before Musk acquired Twitter, as part of an annual assessment of online platforms’ compliance with the blog’s code of conduct on disinformation. It found that Twitter assessed just over half of the notifications it received about illegal hate speech within 24 hours, down from 82% in 2021.

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