Elon Musk announces ‘amnesty’ and reinstatement of suspended Twitter accounts

The new boss of Twitter, Elon Musk, announced Thursday, November 24, that he would restore suspended accounts on the platform next week, “provided they haven’t broken the law or sent outrageous spamming”.

The Billionaire launched a survey on its network on Wednesdayat the end of which a majority emerged in favor of this measure. “The people have spoken, the amnesty begins next week”Mr. Musk tweeted on Thursday, a holiday in the United States for the holiday of Thanksgiving, accompanying his publication of the message ” Vox Populi vox dei “. A large majority of voters said they were in favor of reinstating suspended accounts. Thus, 72.4% of the approximately 3.16 million people who expressed themselves answered “yes” to Mr. Musk’s question.

Drop in ad spend

A few days earlier, on Saturday, Elon Musk had proceeded in the same way on behalf of Donald Trump, banned from the social network after the assault on the Capitol in Washington, in January 2021. The leader of Tesla and SpaceX had made this decision following a similar consultation on Twitter, a method of uncertain representativeness. A narrow majority (51.8%) of the fifteen million voters had expressed themselves in favor of a return of the Republican billionaire, who has not tweeted since the restoration of his account.

Elon Musk has repeatedly explained that he bought Twitter because he sees the platform as the “digital public space” essential to democracy in the world.

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The richest man in the world considers the moderation of content too restrictive, but his absolutist vision of freedom of expression raises fears of a surge of abuse (misinformation, hate speech) on the social network. Despite his denials – he still assured Thursday that hate speech was down on the platform –, several independent studies have shown a worrying increase in the degree of toxicity of the speeches held there.

The use of polls to define certain orientations of Twitter also goes against a commitment expressed shortly after the takeover of the company. Elon Musk had indeed announced the imminent formation of a “moderation council with very diverse points of view”. “No major decision regarding the contents or the reinstatement of accounts will be taken before the meeting of this council”he tweeted.

But he went back on this promise, accusing “social and political activists” to seek to “kill Twitter by drying up [ses] advertising revenue », which account for 90% of the company’s revenue. This strategy amounts, according to the tempestuous entrepreneur, to a breach of the agreement to establish a council of elders. Many brands have already suspended their advertising spending on Twitter – including Volkswagen, General Motors and General Mills.

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Elon Musk nevertheless seems to have a limit: he indicated that he would not restore the account of the American far-right conspirator Alex Jones, who has been sued for several years by parents of victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting, in Newton (Connecticut), for claiming the massacre was just a staged show by opponents of guns. Having experienced the death of his first child, he explained to be “without mercy towards anyone who would use the deaths of children to [engranger des] financial, political or fame gains”.

A decision that raises many questions

“What Musk is doing poses an existential threat to many marginalized communitiesreacted to the washington post Alejandra Carabello, professor at Harvard’s Cyberlaw Clinic and transgender activist. It is like opening the gates of hell. » People exercising particularly exposed professions, like some journalistshave also publicly expressed concern about the impact that a massive reinstatement of banned accounts could have for the safety of their colleagues.

Proceeding with the general restoration of the accounts expelled from the platform also represents a real challenge on the practical level: how do the Twitter teams, greatly reduced by the various waves of layoffs and resignations in recent weeks, plan to go into review all deleted accounts in order to diagnose who is destined to return? The laws under which accounts have been banned vary, indeed, from country to country and therefore, in theory, need to have a clear history, for each, of what led to the banning in the first place. sanction.

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More broadly, Elon Musk is being criticized for his impulsive decisions at the helm of Twitter, from mass layoffs to the chaotic launch of new features. He dismisses criticism several times a day on his account with 118 million subscribers with memes (parodic images), emoticons, provocations, personal attacks and pirouettes. But the billionaire risks being overtaken by regulators.

Twitter must indeed respect European laws, including that on digital services (DSA), which should oblige platforms to quickly remove illegal content and to fight against misinformation.

The Audiovisual and Digital Communication Regulatory Authority (Arcom), the French media policeman, reminded the Californian group on Monday of its ” obligations “ and asked him about him ” to confirm “ by Thursday be ” able “ to deal with it and “to inform him of the short-term development of human and technological resources” who are dedicated to it.

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