Elon Musk is acting on his vow to rethink permanent bans on Twitter users. Twitter has reinstated the accounts of three controversial users, including a conservative satire site Babylon Bee, conservative author (and former YouTube personality) Jordan Peterson and comedian Kathy Griffin. A decision about former President Donald Trump has “not yet been made,” Musk said, although the CEO previously said he would reverse Trump’s ban.
The action comes as part of “Freedom Fridays,” accordingly to Musk. However, it also appears to contradict Musk’s previous pledge to form a moderation council before undoing bans or otherwise making significant content decisions. The council was supposed to ensure that Twitter’s policies reflected a wide range of viewpoints.
Both Babylon Bee and Peterson were banned earlier this year for violating Twitter’s hate speech rules protecting transgender people. Griffin, meanwhile, was banned for responding to Twitter’s messy pay-for-verification rollout by impersonating Musk. As you might imagine, these actions are likely to have critics. LGBTQ rights advocates like GLAAD supported internet bans on Peterson this summer due to his “hateful and false narratives,” for example.
The tech mogul warned that some content would still be subject to severe restrictions. Hate and other negative tweets would be “max deboosted & demonetized,” he said. While this wouldn’t apply to whole accounts, it would make offending tweets invisible unless you knew to look for them, and would prevent Twitter earning revenue from that material. Free speech on Twitter didn’t mean “freedom of reach,” Musk added.
The combination of lifted bans and a new moderation policy reflects Musk’s attempts to balance his personal desires with commercial realities. While he has argued that Twitter should be a free speech haven where bans are very rare, he has also tried to reassure advertisers worried their promos might appear next to hate speech and other objectionable tweets. In other words, Musk may still have to clamp down on toxic content even if its creators are now allowed on his platform.
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