Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

New Twitter owner Elon Musk said Thursday he was granting an “amnesty” for suspended accounts, which Internet security experts predict will fuel a rise in harassment, hate speech and misinformation.

The billionaire’s announcement came after a poll posted on his timeline asked for a vote to reactivate accounts that had not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam.” 72 percent voted in favor.

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“The people said. The amnesty starts next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted, using a Latin phrase that means “voice of the people, voice of God.”

Musk used the same Latin phrase after posting a similar poll last weekend before reactivating the account of former President Donald Trump, who was banned by Twitter for inciting a riot at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Trump said he would not return to Twitter but did not delete your account.

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Such online surveys are anything but scientific and can easily be influenced by bots.

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In the month since Musk took over Twitter, groups that monitor the platform for racist, anti-Semitic and other toxic speech say it is on the rise in the world’s de facto public square. This included an increase in racist abuse of World Cup footballers which Twitter allegedly does not act on.

The rise in harmful content is due in large part to the turmoil following Musk’s decision to lay off half of the company’s 7,500 employees, fire top executives and then issue a series of ultimatums that forced hundreds of others to quit. An untold number of contractors responsible for content moderation were also fired. Among those who resigned because of a lack of faith in Musk’s will to prevent Twitter from degenerating into a chaos of uncontrolled speech was Twitter’s head of trust and security, Yoel Roth.

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Big advertisers have also left the platform.

READ MORE: Elon Musk Considers Bringing Back Donald Trump’s Twitter Account, Launches Poll

On October 28, the day after taking control, Musk tweeted that no suspended accounts would be reinstated until Twitter formed a “content moderation council” with diverse viewpoints to review the cases.

On Tuesday, he said he was reneging on that pledge because he agreed to the insistence of a “grand coalition of political and social activist groups” who later “cut the deal” by calling on advertisers to at least temporarily stop giving Twitter their business.

A day earlier, Twitter reactivated the personal account of far-right MP Marjorie Taylor Greene, which was banned in January for violating the platform’s policy on disinformation about COVID.

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Meanwhile, Musk is increasingly hanging out on Twitter with right-wing people. Ahead of this month’s US midterm elections, he urged “independent” people to vote Republican.

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A European Union report released Thursday said Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less of it this year compared to 2021. The report was based on data collected during the spring — before Musk bought Twitter — in as part of the annual evaluation of the compliance of internet platforms with the Union’s code of conduct on disinformation. It found that Twitter assessed just over half of the illegal hate speech notifications it received within 24 hours, down from 82% in 2021.

© 2022 The Associated Press