Twitter is bracing itself for the return of some unwelcome faces, as Elon Musk looks set to reverse lifetime bans for some users
After months of back-and-forth, Elon Musk has officially acquired Twitter in a takeover worth $44bn (£38.1bn), according to a filing with the US government.
Musk tweeted “the bird is freed” and later said “let the good times roll”, leading many online to wonder what the first big change to the platform might be.
Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in! pic.twitter.com/D68z4K2wq7
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 26, 2022
A number of top executives, including the main person in charge, Parag Agrawal, have reportedly been fired.
Reuters reported that Agrawal and two other executives were escorted out of Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters on Thursday evening.
Somewhat more troublingly, but in no way surprisingly, the word on the internet is that Musk now plans to reverse lifetime bans for some high-profile Twitter users, who had been removed from the platform for various hate-speech infractions.
Musk, whose trans daughter severed ties with her mogul father earlier this year, has referred to himself as a “free speech absolutist” and, on a number of occasions, been critical of Twitter’s moderation policies.
I absolutely support trans, but all these pronouns are an esthetic nightmare
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 16, 2020
A source close to Musk told Bloomberg that the controversial billionaire and wealthiest person in the world ‘doesn’t believe in barring an individual from the social-media site for life’.
Twitter has removed a number of high-profile political personalities over the years, many of whom are considered far-right names or conspiracy theorists.
Of course, probably the most significant among those names being former US President Donald Trump.
When Trump was booted off the platform, following the Capitol riot in January 2021, Twitter cited fears he would incite further violence. Specifically, that his posts were “highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the US Capitol”.
Musk didn’t share that perspective, calling the move “foolish”, and later hinting that he would reverse bans on suspended users, which could include Trump.
In fact, one of Musk’s first firings was none other than Twitter‘s head of legal policy, the person who made call to ban Trump’s account.
Donald Trump himself said today (October 28) that Twitter is “now in sane hands”, with Musk at the helm.
While anti-trans activist Graham Linehan, who was removed from the platform for a number of transphobic posts which violated old Twitter’s terms of service, said today:
“Dear Mr Musk, Can we have our accounts back, please? We were banned for supporting women’s rights and opposing the homophobic, misogynist, reality-denying shitshow that is gender identity ideology.”
Some other flagged names people have voiced concerns over being offered a pass to return on the app include:
Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, Katie Hopkins, Andrew Tate, Alex Jones, Meghan Murphy – to name just a few.
Earlier this year, a damning report into online hate on social media platforms, specifically Meta and Twitter, revealed the providers were ‘enabling digital hate’ by not doing enough to protect vulnerable users.
Twitter was singled out under its OLD ownership, so it’s no great surprise people are concerned about the new structure and how it might impact users who already face somewhat severe abuse on the platform.
“Musk made it clear that he would roll back Twitter’s community standards and safety guidelines, reinstate Donald Trump along with scores of other accounts suspended for violence and abuse, and open the floodgates of disinformation,” said Angelo Carusone, the president of the advocacy group Media Matters for America.
Media Matters, along with a coalition of 26 other human rights groups, have published a letter asking Twitter advertisers to boycott the platform should Musk’s acquisition leads to a more relaxed approach to hate speech and misinformation spreading.
They warn that the takeover “will further toxify our information ecosystem and be a direct threat to public safety”.