Musk to grant ‘amnesty’ to suspended Twitter accounts, raising fresh content concerns

Twitter logo
Elon Musk says he will grant “amnesty” for suspended Twitter accounts, raising new concerns about harmful content on the platform.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

Elon Musk said Thursday that he is granting “amnesty” for suspended Twitter accounts, a move that online safety experts predict will spur a rise in harassment, hate speech and misinformation.

The announcement by Twitter’s new owner came after he asked users in a poll posted to his timeline to vote on reinstatements for accounts that have not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam.” The vote in favor was 72%.

“The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted, using a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people, the voice of God.”


Musk used the same Latin phrase after posting a similar poll last last weekend before reinstating the account of former President Trump, whom Twitter had banned for encouraging the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection. Trump has said he won’t return to Twitter but has not deleted his account.

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

In the month since Musk took over Twitter, groups that monitor the platform for racist, antisemitic and other toxic speech say it’s been on the rise on the platform that acts as a global public square. That has included a surge in racist abuse of World Cup soccer players that Twitter is allegedly failing to act on.

Elon Musk’s track record as a boss is an endless scroll of impulse firings, retribution, tone-deafness on race — and the impregnation of a subordinate.

Nov. 14, 2022

The uptick in harmful content is in large part due to the chaos following Musk’s decision to lay off half the company’s 7,500-person workforce, fire top executives and issue a series of ultimatums that prompted hundreds more to quit.

Also let go were an untold number of contractors responsible for content moderation. Among those resigning over a lack of faith in Musk’s willingness to keep Twitter from devolving into a pandemonium of uncontrolled speech were Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth. Major advertisers have also abandoned the platform.

On Oct. 28, the day after he took control, Musk tweeted that no suspended accounts would be reinstated until Twitter formed a “content moderation council” with diverse viewpoints that would consider the cases.


On Tuesday, he said he was reneging on that promise because he’d agreed to it at the insistence of “a large coalition of political-social activists groups” who later ”broke the deal” by urging advertisers to at least temporarily stop giving Twitter their business.

The lawsuit alleges Twitter did not provide employees with adequate written notice ahead of layoffs that reportedly will eliminate 50% of Twitter’s jobs.

Nov. 4, 2022

A day earlier, Twitter reinstated the personal account of far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who was banned in January for violating the platform’s COVID-19 misinformation policies.

Musk, meanwhile, has drawn increasingly close to right-wing figures. Before this month’s U.S. midterm elections, he urged “independent-minded” people to vote Republican.

A report from the European Union published Thursday said Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less of it this year compared with 2021. The report was based on data collected over the spring — before Musk acquired Twitter — as part of an annual evaluation of online platforms’ compliance with the bloc’s code of conduct on disinformation.

The report found that Twitter assessed just over half of the notifications it received about illegal hate speech within 24 hours, down from 82% in 2021.