Monday, November 28, 2022

On Thursday, owner of social media platform Twitter, Elon Musk announced a widespread revoke of account bans after a day-long user poll. Last Saturday, he lifted a ban on former US President Donald Trump’s profile after a similar poll. To this day, Trump did not return to the site .

Should Twitter offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts, provided that they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam?

Musk opened the poll on Wednesday and closed it 26 hours later tweeting “The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei.” (“the voice of the people, the voice of God”). Of the 3,162,112 votes, 72.4% were in favor of amnesty.

The poll question did not specify clearly who would be forgiven, but indicated that law breakers and spammers will not be allowed back.

Musk used the same lines to announce the unbanning of Trump last Saturday after a 24-hour long vote. Of the 15,085,458 votes, 51.8% were for Trump’s return. During the poll on Friday, Musk tweeted that bots were likely manipulating the procedure, but “[they] might be running out of steam soon”. By that time, a skeleton crew was operating the service after Musk terminated “half the workforce”, and “another 1,200” resigned last week to protest the company’s new “hardcore working practices”.

On his own platform, Truth Social, Trump encouraged his 4.3 million followers to vote for him on Twitter. On Saturday, prior to the final results, Trump asserted, “Truth Social is… doing phenomenally well…[a]nd I’ll be staying there.”

Twitter management banned Trump, who had over 80 million followers at the time, after rioters attacked the Capitol in 2021, citing concerns about “further incitement of violence”. Trump then launched Truth Social, proclaiming it a domain for in contrast to “liberal media”.

Musk acquired Twitter on October 27. He proclaimed himself as a “free speech absolutist” and against “permabans”. In May, while the purchase was underway, he called the ban “morally bad” and “foolish in the extreme”. Trump was supportive of the acquisition.

After the purchase, Musk stated that Twitter would not perform “major content moderation or account reinstatements” until a “content moderation council” could assemble to address those issues. Some businesses have withdrawn from using the platform, arguing that Twitter Blue, Musk’s initiative, might allow users to impersonate them.

Reacting to the vote on Trump, Derrick Johnson, President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, remarked last Saturday, “[if] Elon Musk continues to run Twitter like this, using garbage polls that do not represent the American people and the needs of our democracy, God help us all.”

Last Sunday, Adam Schiff, a Democratic US Representative from California, said on ABC News that ending the ban was “a terrible mistake…[i]t just underscores the erratic leadership of Twitter now under Musk, but also the security concerns, with security people fleeing Twitter, and what that means for the protection of Americans’ private data.”


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