Elon Musk announces “amnesty” and the reinstatement of suspended Twitter accounts

The new head of Twitter, Elon Musk, announced on Thursday (November 24) that he would restore suspended accounts on the platform next week. “provided they have not broken the law or sent outrageous spamming”.

The Billionaire on Wednesday it launched a poll about its networkat the end of which a majority in favor of this provision emerged. “The people have spoken, the amnesty starts next week”Mr. Musk tweeted Thursday, a US Thanksgiving holiday, accompanying his posting of the message “Vox Populi vox dei”. The vast majority of voters said they were in favor of restoring suspended accounts. Thus, 72.4% of the approximately 3.16 million people who spoke out answered “yes” to Mr. Musk’s question.

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A few days earlier, on Saturday, Elon Musk had did the same 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 for democracy in the world.

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

The use of polls to define some Twitter orientations also goes against a commitment made shortly after the acquisition of the company. Elon Musk had in fact announced the imminent formation of a “council of moderation with very different points of view”. “No major decisions regarding the contents or restoration of accounts will be made prior to the meeting of this board”he tweeted.

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

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However, Elon Musk seems to have a limit: he has indicated that he will not restore the account of the far-right American conspirator Alex Jones, denounced for several years by the parents of the victims of the shooting at the Sandy Hook school in Newton (Connecticut) ), for having stated that the massacre was just a show put on by gun opponents. Having lived through the death of his first child, he explained that he is “with no mercy to anyone who would exploit the deaths of children for [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 Washington Post Alejandra Carabello, professor at Harvard’s Cyberlaw Clinic and transgender activist. It’s like opening the gates of hell. » Persons exercising particularly exposed professions, like some journaliststhey have also publicly expressed concern about the impact a massive recovery of locked down accounts could have on the safety of their colleagues.

Proceeding with the general restoration of the accounts expelled from the platform also represents a real challenge on a practical level: how do the Twitter teams, heavily downsized by the various waves of layoffs and resignations of recent weeks, think of going to review all the deleted accounts to diagnose who is destined to return? The laws according to which the accounts have been banned vary, in fact, from country to country and therefore, in theory, it is necessary to have a clear history, for each one, of what led to the ban in the first place.

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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 rollout of new features. He fends off criticism several times a day on his 118 million subscribed account with memes (parodic images), emoticons, taunts, personal attacks and pirouettes. But the billionaire risks being overtaken by the regulators.

Indeed, Twitter must comply with European laws, including the law on digital services (DSA), which should oblige platforms to quickly remove illegal content and fight disinformation.

The Regulatory Authority for Audiovisual and Digital Communications (Arcom), the French policeman of the media, reminded the Californian group on Monday of its “obligations” and I asked about him ” to confirm “ by Thursday well ” to be able “ 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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