Elon Musk has announced he will grant “amnesty” to suspended Twitter accounts, prompting experts to predict an increase in harassment, hate speech and misinformation.
The billionaire asked his followers in a poll to vote on reinstating accounts that haven’t “broken the law or engaged in egregious spamming”.
The yes was 72%.
“The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted, using a Latin phrase that translates to “voice of the people, voice of God.”
Although it was welcomed by many, the apparent decision drew an instant flood of criticism.
Angelo Carusone, chairman and president of Media Matters, a nonprofit liberal advocacy group and media watchdog, said the move could see the return of the Nazi Party America and “a whole bunch of… conspiracy theorists who engage in harassment and abuse”.
He said undoing the suspensions would mean “making Twitter a one-stop shop for operationalizing doxxing and harassment, and an engine for radicalization.”
“Even if you’re not on Twitter, you can still be the recipient of these campaigns,” he told The Washington Post.
Hopewell Chin’ono, an award-winning African journalist, tweeted: “This would be a major disaster, especially in Africa where state-sponsored Ghost accounts have been suspended for endangering human rights activists and the journalists.
“You would have allowed despicable people to endanger our lives as journalists! You will have blood on your hands @elonmusk.”
Michael Edison Hayden of the Southern Poverty Law Center said Mr Musk was “bringing white supremacy back in a big way and wants everyone to know that”.
He listed a series of far-right and white supremacist figures, including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, whose accounts he said would be reinstated as a result of the ruling.
Matt Navarra, social media expert and former UK government digital adviser, said: “Elon Musk is opening all the doors to the Twitter prison. Things are going to get a little crazier.”
The Tesla and SpaceX boss used the same Latin phrase after posting a similar poll last weekend before reinstating former President Donald Trump’s account, nearly two years after his withdrawal.
Mr. Trump has been permanently suspended from Twitter in January 2021 after his supporters attacked the United States Capitol which caused several deaths.
Twitter said the decision, after the riot, was “due to the risk of further incitement to violence”.
More than 15 million votes were cast, but the former president told a rally on Saturday evening: “I see no reason for [returning to Twitter].”
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Kanye West also returned to the platform earlier this weekafter previously restricting his account after saying he would go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE”.
In messages Wednesday morning, Mr. Musk appeared to mock critics who had criticized his methods.
“Wasn’t Twitter supposed to die now or what?” he posted, followed by “Maybe we’ve been to heaven/hell and we don’t know.”
Following Musk’s $44 billion takeover of Twitter, many workers were either laid off by the company to cut costs or left voluntarily.
Business Insider reported Thursday that Musk fired “several dozen” other Twitter employees late Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving in the United States.
The layoffs reportedly surprised staff after Musk told a meeting earlier this week that there would be no more layoffs at the company.