Elon Musk has come under fire for his decision to allow previously banned accounts back on Twitter, which one expert says amounts to “opening hell for some of the worst people on the internet.” Social media commentator Matt Navarra said the move would allow banned users to “return from their Twitter prison cell” to “harass, abuse and disrupt” others on the site.
Musk’s announcement came after he shared a poll asking Twitter users to vote on bringing back accounts that didn’t “break the law or engage in egregious spam” — the yes vote was 72 percent. “The people have spoken. Amnesty starts next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” he tweeted, using a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people, the voice of God.”
Last week, the billionaire reinstated Donald Trump’s account after a similar poll – although the former US president has yet to tweet – also recently allowed Kanye West back after he was suspended for antisemitic comments. The new pardon — which Musk said will begin next week — could see a number of controversial and far-right figures allowed back on the platform, including Katie Hopkins and former Trump advisor Steve Bannon.
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He has yet to provide any further details on how Twitter will determine which banned accounts will be considered for a return. Navarra also cautioned that there does not appear to be new technology or policies to help Twitter manage the return of characters who have previously used the site to spread abuse, hate and division.
Speaking to the PA news agency, he said: “It is very difficult to see any benefit or rationale for making this decision. There does not appear to be any new technology or policies in place to address the risks that bringing these people back on the platform would bring.”
Should Twitter offer a general amnesty for suspended accounts, provided they haven’t broken the law or engaged in egregious spam?
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“Twitter really doesn’t have the greatest track record in managing content and managing this kind of abusive and harassing behavior – and that’s with these people locked up – so for them to come back, I’m having a hard time seeing how it could be anything but bad news.”
The Tesla CEO has spoken repeatedly about his belief in allowing more freedom of expression on the platform and reversing a permanent ban from Twitter, despite warnings from online safety groups that it will lead to increased abuse and harm on the site. Researchers have already reported a sharp rise in offensive content appearing on Twitter since Musk completed his takeover in October.
Navarra said he understood Musk’s proposed pardon “from a free speech standpoint” in allowing previously banned users to “at least have a basic presence” on the site and adjust their access as needed, but he predicted a number of problems would arise from the decision. He said: “I think that makes sense but it still seems there is not the technology in place to deal with it and it certainly does not have the levels of staffing required to deal with the potentially meteoric rise in breaches we are likely to see from such a decision.
“I think it’s bad news for most people on the platform — even those who have never experienced harassment and abuse before. There is nothing positive that can come from this.”
He said the decision could be “another nail in the coffin” for Twitter’s advertising business, as some advertisers have temporarily stopped working with the platform over concerns about Musk’s new approach to content and moderation.
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