February 8, 2023

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Elon Musk will bring the worst people on the internet back to Twitter

The decision to undo years of Twitter moderation shatters Musk’s original promise: to create a diverse council that would help make serious moderation decisions. Musk backed away from that idea, later blaming “political/social activist groups” for breaking an alleged “deal” — a claim no one has verified and which advertisers dispute. Twitter has spent many hard-earned years removing users from the service, and many of Twitter’s bans have been related to appalling abuse, harassment, and misinformation.

The poll was a smash, with 72.4% of respondents voting “yes” to unban accounts from a pool of just over 3 million votes. It is not clear who voted; Musk spent a long time getting out of buying Twitter based on claims that the service was filled with bots and inauthentic accounts.

It is not yet clear which accounts will be allowed back. Musk said accounts that “broke the law or engaged in egregious spam” would not return. But breaking the law is an extremely high bar for moderation, since most people don’t break the law by simply being terrible people. Even Musk has expressed some minimum standards; While he has spent much time dealing with right-wing complaints, he signaled resistance the idea of ​​letting someone like Alex Jones back on his website.

Nonetheless, a blanket restoration of most suspended accounts is likely to have immense and far-reaching unintended consequences — particularly in regions where Twitter’s moderation and compliance capabilities have been gutted by the company’s new head.

Elon Musk began his Twitter reign by declaring that “comedy is legal.” Almost anything seems possible now.