Elon Musk’s Twitter is taking shape.
According to data reviewed by NBC News, the “general amnesty” reinstated hundreds of accounts of right-wing activists and QAnon supporters. The reinstatement of far-right accounts coincided with a series of bans on left-wing accounts, leaving users unsure of how the company was enforcing its rules.
“Uncertainty is a problem,” said Yoel Roth, who recently stepped down as head of trust and security at Twitter. “People don’t know if the rules have changed, and the amnesty suggests that there is at least some level of disagreement about firing some of those people. So we’re seeing a lot of line pushing combined with more constrained execution. This is a dangerous combination.”
The reinstatement and bans come as researchers continue to track an increase in hate speech and high-profile users leave the platform. Together, they created a shift in the platform that Musk noticed criticsas well as his supporters.
Musk, who took control of Twitter in late October, claimed the company had not changed any of its moderation policies despite Twitter’s announcement. this week no longer applies the Covid disinformation policy.
But Musk has also used informal Twitter polls to make major decisions, first to reinstate former President Donald Trump’s account and then to issue a “general amnesty” to suspended accounts.
“The people have spoken,” he tweeted last week. “Amnesty starts next week.”
Musk kept his word. Travis Brown, a freelance software developer in Berlin who tracked Twitter suspensions and screen name changes as part of a project studying extremism, shared a dataset for this article showing that many right-wing accounts were reinstated after Musk’s announcement.
During that time, Brown recorded an estimated 12,000 revocations of past bans, which, while not a definitive list of revocations in the set, provides a window into the types of users who have been brought back to the platform and which worries experts. Between spammers, copyright violators, adult content creators, and high-profile accounts, Twitter has reopened the door to a growing and emboldened community of trolls, white nationalists, conspiracy theorists, and far-right activists.
White nationalist Patrick Casey and neo-Nazi Andrew Angle have both had their accounts reinstated.
“I never thought I’d see the day I’d be allowed back on Twitter, and here we are,” Casey told listeners of Tuesday’s podcast.
These recoveries coincide with some users reporting an increase in harassment that prompted them to quit.
Jane Manchun Wong, a Hong Kong-based independent software researcher known for breaking insider secrets about ongoing features, said on Wednesday: “I’ve experienced more random racism and sexual harassment since I ran it,” in a post on the open-source social network Mastodon, which has grown and grown on the site. referring to the number of trolls.
By Sam Harris deleted his account With 1.5 million followers last week after Trump’s recovery. Referring to Musk in one of his recent tweets, Harris wrote: “The prevailing view among free speech allies seems to be that this platform must helplessly publish the noxious lies of any maniac in order to be sane. regardless of the consequences.”
Many of the accounts in Brown’s set had markers and hashtags in their bios indicating they were involved in the QAnon conspiracy theory movement, which was largely purged from Twitter last year.
The reinstatements also come after Twitter made drastic layoffs, including those dealing with abuse and hate speech. In an interview with tech journalist Kara Swisher on Wednesday, Roth expressed doubts about the platform’s ability to enforce its declining policies.
“Are there enough people who understand the malicious campaigns happening in the service and understand them well enough to guide product strategy and policy direction?” – he asked. “I don’t think there are enough people in the company to do the job.”
While a lack of effective content moderation is said to have turned off advertisers and alienated some users, the move to roll back fees from past violators has also brought attention to the platform, a measure Musk values, Sarah T. Roberts said. Associate Professor at UCLA and author of Behind the Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of Social Media. He briefly researched content moderation on Twitter, but returned to school this year.
He called the restoration of banned accounts a “field day” for their owners.
“From their perspective, there’s a sense of vindication and all you have to do is wait for the weather to change,” Roberts said.
This queue now includes new suspensions in addition to account recovery.
Several independent media accounts reporting on far-right groups and left-wing activists have been suspended in recent days.
Chad Loder is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist with more than 137,000 followers, whose reporting on the Jan. 6 riot was cited in the Justice Department’s indictment. Loder, who uses his own pronouns, recently had his account suspended, briefly reinstated, and suspended again for no apparent reason.
Twitter initially flagged the account as spam by mistake, reinstated it on Nov. 23, then suspended it again for evading the ban, according to company notices Loder shared in the interview.
Loder said his accounts were banned immediately after being put on a “target list” of right-wing accounts to report for violating Twitter’s rules.
On November 25, the account of the anti-fascist publishing group CrimethInc, which has more than 66,000 followers, was suspended after right-wing activist Andy Ngo tweeted at Mask calling for him to be banned. Leigh Young, a member of the group, said she never received an official explanation for the suspension of CrimethInc.
“This suggests that Musk himself dictated the decision to ban our account shortly thereafter,” Young said.
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment on the suspension and reinstatement. Requests for comment sent to email addresses associated with Musk were returned. Demonstrating his unilateral decision-making, Musk on Thursday suspended Ye for “incitement to violence” after he tweeted a picture of a swastika inside the rapper’s Star of David.
The move surprised some observers as a contrast to Musk’s previous stance on free speech.
“Elon “absolute freedom of speech” Musk is now drawing the same line as several European countries.” Marietje Schaake tweetedFormer Member of the European Parliament and Director of International Policy at the Stanford Cyber Policy Center.
The platform shift was enough to alienate even some right-leaning people. Claire Lehmann, founder of the online magazine Quillette, which in recent years has emerged as a popular destination for writers with a new libertarian bent, sometimes referred to as the “Intellectual Dark Web,” quit Twitter last week. Shen before deleting his account he tweeted that people are being “bullied” off the platform and that followers don’t equate to increased revenue for creators. “Abandonment is rational,” he wrote.
Celebrities also jumped ship. Jim Carrey tells his 18.9 million followers, “I love you all so much!” saying he was the biggest name to leave on Tuesday night. The actor follows a deep bench of popular users who have pulled their content from Twitter since Musk took over. Musician Trent Reznor, actress Whoopi Goldberg, singer Toni Braxton, musician Moby and television producer and writer Shonda Rhimes have had their accounts deleted or frozen. Links that only weeks ago pointed to accounts with millions of followers now remain frozen in farewell tweets or serve as little signs that say “This account does not exist.”
This is not the first time that prominent Twitter users have loudly fled the platform, in many cases only to reactivate their accounts after a hiatus of days or weeks. And there’s some evidence that high-profile exits are spilling over. Data from two independent research firms also found that downloads and activity increased in the weeks after Musk took office, particularly in the United States.
But data collected by researchers tracking hate speech online supports recent claims that the platform is becoming less of a place for “healthy conversation” and more of a platform for unchecked hate and misinformation. Musk disputed these claims publication charts The volume of overall impressions indicating hate speech has declined, according to Twitter data, though it did not elaborate on how the company arrived at those conclusions.
He reiterated that claim on Friday, saying that the overall reach of hate speech based on the number of views on tweets is declining.
The Network Contagion Research Institute, an independent organization that monitors hostile ideological content online, reported a 500% increase in the use of the N-word on Twitter in the hours after Musk took office. He also pointed to the platform’s apparent bounty for hate speech, reporting that Ye nearly doubled his followers after posting anti-Semitic tweets. The group writes: “The chatter, the toxicity, the anti-Semitism, and the new followers intensify with each successive controversy.” on Twitter.
Musk has responded to claims that Twitter is more volatile. Last month, he tweeted that Twitter would follow its “free speech, not free speech” policy. “Negative/hate tweets will be minimized and demonetized,” he said.
Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Combating Digital Hate, a non-profit organization, called Musk’s claims “maximum gaslighting”.
Last week, the group said Twitter had failed to handle tweets that allegedly targeted athletes competing at the FIFA World Cup. In an unpublished report provided to NBC News, the group found that tweets promoting hate against LGBTQ people had been viewed tens of millions of times since the mass shooting in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
A study released this week by Montclair State University’s Center for Strategic Communication found a dramatic increase in anti-LGBTQ slurs on Twitter after the Colorado nightclub shooting. the highest level before shooting.
“We all understand the importance of free speech, but there are dangers to running platforms like Twitter as ‘free speech absolutists,'” Bond Benton, an associate professor in the School of Communication and Media, said in the report.
According to the Center Against Digital Hate, one of the most viewed anti-LGBTQ tweets came from right-wing media personality James Lindsay, who takes credit for popularizing the term “groomer.”
He was previously permanently banned from Twitter for violating the hateful conduct guidelines.