Elon Musk to give ‘amnesty’ to more suspended accounts on Twitter

Concerns have also been raised around Twitter’s ability to comply with EU rules after the closure of its Brussels office.

Elon Musk plans to offer “amnesty” to suspended accounts on Twitter starting next week.

In a poll on the platform, Musk asked if he should “offer a general amnesty” to the accounts of users who were banned before he took over, “provided that they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam”.

With more than 3.1m votes, the poll results were 72.4pc in favour. Musk followed it up with: “The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week.”

He then used a Latin term that translates to “the voice the people is the voice of God”.

The account of Donald Trump was recently reinstated after a similar poll narrowly voted in favour of the former US president, who was permanently suspended for encouraging violence during the 6 January riots in 2021.

However it remains to be seen if Trump is interested in using his Twitter account, which still has more than 87m followers, because he is invested in his own platform Truth Social.

Other prominent but controversial accounts have also been reinstated in recent days, such as those of former kickboxer and internet personality Andrew Tate and US rapper Ye (formerly Kanye West).

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones will not be allowed back, however, because Musk said he “has no mercy” for anyone who “would use the deaths of children for gain, politics or fame”.

In the immediate aftermath of his Twitter takeover last month, Musk tweeted that no content decisions or account reinstatements would take place before a content moderation council with “widely diverse viewpoints” convened. However, this does not appear to have materialised.

Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law’s cyberlaw clinic, told The Washington Post that Musk’s planned reinstatements could be “existentially dangerous” for marginalised communities. “It’s like opening the gates of hell in terms of the havoc it will cause,” Caraballo said.

“People who engaged in direct targeted harassment can come back and engage in doxing, targeted harassment, vicious bullying, calls for violence, celebration of violence. I can’t even begin to state how dangerous this will be.”

Brussels office closure

Meanwhile, sources with knowledge of the matter have told the Financial Times that Elon Musk has closed Twitter’s Brussels office, where staff were responsible for EU digital policy and worked closely with the European Commission.

The office’s closure might have implications for Twitter’s ability to comply with EU laws, such as those relating to the landmark Digital Services Act passed in July – which demands that tech companies take control of content moderation.

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission has reportedly sought clarity from Twitter upon the closure of the Brussels office.

Meanwhile, EU commissioner for justice Didier Reynders is on a two-day visit to Ireland, where he met Twitter representatives based at the company’s European HQ in Dublin. They reportedly assured him that Twitter will continue to meet regulatory requirements despite recent moves.

“What we have seen in the last few weeks is very concerning,” Reynders told reporters on his trip, according to the Business Post. “In terms of decisions relating to the reduction of staff, we want to be sure there are resources to protect the data of users.”

Reynders added that he has reminded Twitter of the need to continue to meet regulatory obligations. “We have received from shareholders of Twitter and the team in Dublin a clear commitment to work on it, but we now need to see concrete measures to be in full compliance.”

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Elon Musk at the SpaceX headquarters in October 2019. Image: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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