New Twitter owner Elon Musk is granting “amnesty” to suspended accounts, which online safety experts say will spur 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 on reinstating accounts that have not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spamming”.
The yes was 72%.
“The people have spoken. Amnesty starts next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted, using a Latin phrase meaning “voice of the people, 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 banned for encouraging the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump said he would not return to Twitter but did not delete his account.
Such 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 slurs say it’s on the rise in the world’s de facto public square.
This has included an increase in racist abuse against World Cup soccer players that Twitter allegedly did not act on.
The increase in harmful content is largely due to the mess that followed Musk’s decision to lay off half of the company’s 7,500 employees, fire top executives and institute a series of ultimatums that prompted hundreds more to quit.
The contractors responsible for content moderation were also terminated.
Among those who resigned due to a lack of faith in Musk’s desire to keep Twitter from devolving into a havoc of unchecked talk was Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth.
Major advertisers have also abandoned the platform.
On Oct. 28, the day after his takeover, Musk tweeted that no suspended accounts would be reinstated until Twitter formed a “content moderation board” with diverse views to review the cases.
On Tuesday, he said he was going back to that pledge because he had accepted it at the insistence of “a broad coalition of political-social activist groups” who later “broke the deal” by urging advertisers to stop giving Twitter their business.
A day earlier, Twitter reinstated the personal account of far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was banned in January for violating the platform’s COVID-19 misinformation policies.
A European Union report released on Thursday said Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less this year than in 2021.
The report was based on data collected before Musk acquired Twitter as part of an annual assessment of online platforms’ compliance with the bloc’s code of conduct on misinformation.
It found that Twitter assessed just over half of the notifications it received for illegal hate speech within 24 hours, up from 82% in 2021.
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