Musk announces ‘general amnesty’ for banned Twitter accounts

New Twitter owner Elon Musk polled users on Wednesday about whether the site should offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts, using the same method he used in the case of Donald Trump.

The move comes as Musk has faced backlash that his criteria for content moderation is based on his personal whim, and restoration is allowed for certain accounts and not others.

“Should Twitter offer a general amnesty to blocked accounts, provided they didn’t break the law and engage in egregious spam?” Musk asked on Twitter.

The poll was open until 17:46 GMT on Thursday and mimicked the strategy used just a few days ago for former US President Trump.

Trump’s Twitter account was reinstated on Saturday after a narrow majority of respondents supported the move.

Twitter polls are open to all users and are non-scientific in nature and can be targeted by fake accounts and bots.

The blanket decision to block accounts could potentially alarm government agencies, which have been keeping a close eye on Musk’s handling of hate speech since he bought the influencer platform for $44 billion.

It could also scare Apple and Google, the tech titans, who could ban Twitter from their mobile app stores over content issues.

Early last year, Trump was banned from the platform for his role in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol by mobs of his supporters seeking to overturn the 2020 election results.

– “No mercy” –

Trump’s reinstatement by Musk followed other banned accounts, including a conservative parody site and a psychologist who violated Twitter’s rules on transgender-identifying language.

The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX has said conspiracy theorist Alex Jones will not return to Twitter and will remain banned from the platform.

Musk on Sunday said he “has no mercy for anyone who would use the death of children for profit, politics or fame” because of his own experience of the death of his first child.

Jones was ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for his lies about the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 26 people, mostly children.

Musk, who completed the Twitter purchase in late October, did not specify whether the bans covered by the survey were permanent or temporary.

The future of content moderation on Twitter has become a pressing issue as big advertisers have stayed away from the site since a failed relaunch earlier this month that saw a slew of fake accounts causing embarrassment.

Meanwhile, the teams responsible for preventing nefarious off-site activity have been gutted, victims of Musk-initiated layoffs that have left half of the company’s employees.

John Wihby, professor of media at Northeastern University, suggested that all this chaos could be caused by Musk trying to “buy his time.”

“Regulators will certainly go after him, both in Europe and possibly in the United States … and so a lot of what he does is trying to provoke these squabbles,” Wihby said.