Musk to restore Twitter account banned for harassment and misinformation


Elon Musk plans to reinstate nearly all previously banned Twitter accounts — alarming activists and experts on online trust and safety.

After posting a Twitter poll, “Should Twitter offer amnesty to suspended accounts if they haven’t broken the law or engaged in egregious spam?” 72.4 percent of respondents voted yes, Musk declared, ” The amnesty starts next week.”

Twitter’s chief executive did not respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment on Thursday. The poll received more than 3 million votes.

Experts say the return of users banned for violations such as violent threats, harassment, name-calling and misinformation will have a major impact on the platform. Many have questioned how to handle such a resurgence, since it’s unclear what Musk means by “bad spam” and the difficulty of distinguishing “violent” users, which varies by jurisdiction and country.

“Apple and Google need to seriously start exploring removing Twitter from the app store,” said Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic. “What Musk is doing is an existential danger to all sorts of marginalized communities. It’s like opening the gates to hell in terms of the damage it’s going to do. People who engage in direct sexual harassment can come back to do-dozen, sexual harassment, vicious Bullying, calling for violence, celebrating violence. I can’t even begin to describe how dangerous this can be.”

Musk’s ‘free speech’ agenda undoes Twitter’s security efforts, insiders say

This is the second time in a week that Musk has used Twitter polls to make major decisions related to the platform. On Nov. 18, he reinstated former President Donald Trump’s account after 52 percent of poll respondents said he should. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted, Latin for “the voice of the people is the voice of God.”

On the same day, he also unilaterally reinstated at least 11 high-profile far-right Twitter accounts, including professor Jordan Peterson, who was banned from Twitter for sexism against transgender people, and the conservative media company Babylon Bee.he also recovered Project Veritas, a website frequently accused of misrepresenting its reviews and banning events for “repeatedly violating Twitter’s policy on private messages,” said the Georgia Rep. The personal account of Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has been banned since January for violating the platform’s covid-19 misinformation policy and promoting violent and extreme speech.

Bots and bad actors can easily distort the results of Twitter polls, making it irresponsible to base decisions on a single person, experts say. “Twitter polls can be manipulated, and there’s no science or rigor in any way to what he’s doing,” said Sarah T. Roberts, an associate professor at UCLA and faculty director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Investigations, who previously Twitter Research Work Content Review Process.

“Before Elon took over,” Roberts added, “the whole team was doing market and user research, and they followed strict protocols for doing that kind of research. All of a sudden, he was running a completely unscientific poll on Twitter.” Surveys, these polls are voting on unknown people, and certainly not any demographically representative group of people.”

Many predicted that reinstating the banned accounts would have very bad results and help bring about the “dogfight hell” that Musk promised advertisers would not see in a letter posted on Twitter the day he owned the platform.

“It would be a major disaster, especially in Africa where state-sponsored ghost accounts are suspended for harming human rights activists and journalists,” Hehe Jinnuo, wrote an African journalist on Twitter. “As a reporter, you will allow scumbags to put our lives at risk! You will have blood on your hands @elonmusk.”

Twitter king Dril on Musk’s reign of chaos

Whether Musk can do what the Twitter poll is looking for is a moot point. He fired the head of the trust and safety team that normally handles the logistics of reactivating accounts. Separating those who “broke the law” depends entirely on whether Twitter has detailed documentation of each suspension, which includes which local laws the tweet violated. Without such legal filters (each tweet is subject to state and local laws), each account would need to be scrutinized. Laws also vary by country and region.

Madeleine Burkholder, a senior technical solutions engineer who has worked on spam management for consumer products, said Musk’s request makes no sense. “Bad spam is not a technical term,” she said, and most big tech companies’ records don’t include issues with local government laws and regulations. The norm is to simply document whether an account violates the company’s terms of service, which are rules set by the platform, not laws of any kind.

“It was really tricky to take these threads apart and figure out what the exact behavior was that caused them to be suspended,” Burkholder said. “Is this an innocent mistake? Is it malicious? How malicious is it?  … …doing this on a single case is challenging, try to do it for every account, and you’re bound to make mistakes.”

Angelo Carusone, chairman and president of the nonprofit and media watchdog Media Matters, said Musk’s reinstatement of suspended accounts could mean reviving personal networks that include the American Nazi Party and “a whole bunch of 8chan, 4chan, conspiracy theorists” who engage in harassment and abuse. 8chan and 4chan are two message boards known for racist and anti-Semitic posts.

Carusone said that lifting the suspension would mean “turning Twitter into a one-stop shop for doxing and harassment, as well as an engine for radicalization.” “It’s a red pill Pez dispenser.” Quitting Twitter doesn’t keep you safe. “Even if you’re not on Twitter, you can still be a recipient of these campaigns,” he said. He predicted public health officials, election officials, journalists and teachers would all be targeted.

“Making major moderation and enforcement decisions on a whim is troubling CEO behavior,” said Nora Benavidez, senior advisor and director of digital justice and civil rights at the nonprofit advocacy group Free Press. “On the back of democracy, Musk is legitimizing decisions that will have far-reaching and dangerous consequences in the real world.”

Organizations including Free Press have spent years educating the tech giants on the complex issues of trust and safety and “forced them to understand the real nuances and intricacies of their role in mitigating harm to real people,” Benavidez said. role.” If “amnesty” were granted to the majority of suspended accounts, “it would be an open season for people suspended for hate, harassment, disinformation, conspiracy and extremism,” Benavidez said. “This is the most dangerous open season.”

“In authoritarian regimes in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, you have journalists and activists who are now at the mercy of even more vicious trolls, with no way to fight back,” Caraballo said. Dead or Alive.”

Advertisers are ditching Twitter. Musk can’t afford to lose again.

The lifting of the suspension was particularly disturbing for LGBTQ activists days after a mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs that killed five people and injured 18 others. Some of the reinstated accounts had previously been suspended for hate speech against the gay and trans communities, and Musk was criticized for replying to right-wing YouTube star Tim Pool and other anti-LGBTQ accounts, who lied It said the club held a “beauty event”.

“It’s a slap in the face for LGBTQ people,” Caraballo said.

In the days after he took over Twitter, Musk initially promised not to change the site’s moderation policies and reinstate accounts until he appointed a moderation board. But recently Musk changed his mind about appointing such a committee and fired hundreds of Twitter employees whose job it was to make posts on the site.

Dozens of Twitter advertisers have suspended spending on the platform following Musk’s takeover, fearing his content moderation practices could affect the site’s tone.

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