Left, Elon Musk addressing guests at the Offshore Northern Seas 2022 (ONS) meeting in Stavanger, Norway on August 29, 2022. Right, mourners in Colorado Springs. Photos via Carina Johansen/Scott Olson/Getty Images.
As the LGBTQ community mourns the loss of five lives after a man went on a rampage at a Colorado gay bar, Elon Musk’s Twitter has restored several accounts that were originally suspended for community abuse.
On Saturday night, a man armed with a gun walked into Colorado Springs LGBTQ bar Club Q and opened fire on patrons. The man was stopped by people at the club, who managed to attack the attacker, taking his gun and hitting him with it, but not before killing five people and injuring 25 others. Police arrested Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, at the club but have yet to file charges.
The attack sent shockwaves across the LGBTQ community. Over the weekend, Twitter reinstated several major accounts that had once been banned for violating their policies — particularly those targeting LGBTQ people — signaling that the new Musk Twitter will be kinder to this type of far-right rhetoric.
The account recoveries are part of Twitter’s reinvention under the turbulent leadership of Musk, who recently acquired the company (after not walking out of the purchase agreement). Part of shaping Twitter according to its vision is to limit content moderation and bring back large accounts that have been banned for violating the company’s rules regarding the abuse of LGBTQ people. Musk had previously indicated that he wanted to “overhaul” the company’s anti-trans harassment policy.
The motive behind the shooting is still unknown, but it comes at a time when anti-LGBTQ sentiment is rising feverishly, particularly due to rhetoric coming from an increasingly mainstream element of the Republican Party. Hospitals believed to offer gender-affirming surgeries face bomb threats, and drag brunches are routinely protested and obstructed — both activities promoted by online anti-LGBTQ activists. Anti-LGBTQ laws have been passed or are underway in the country’s Red states, hate crimes against LGBTQ people are on the rise, and the SPLC has reported anti-community hate groups are also on the rise.
One of the accounts that relaunched Twitter was James Lindsay, who gained notoriety for falsifying an “awakened” peer-reviewed paper and used that insight to repeatedly label people as pedophiles and popularize the term “Ok Groomer.” make.
Also returning was ultra-popular pop psychologist Jordan Peterson, who was banned from Twitter for calling actor Elliot Page dead – Peterson said he’d rather “die” than delete the tweet. Another account restored last Friday was Musk’s favorite Babylon Bee, a right-wing satirical outlet that frequently posts content ridiculing the LGBTQ community.
And finally former President Donald Trump, who was suspended for his role in the January 6 riots, was reinstated by Musk over the weekend after the CEO posted a poll on Twitter to allow him the return, which was narrowly met. Trump hasn’t said if he will return to Twitter as he has his own social media platform, Truth Social. In his speech last week announcing his plan to run for president in 2024, Trump made several remarks about gender identity, particularly in the school and sports systems.
Erin Reed, a trans activist and content creator, told VICE News, “It feels different when all these accounts are coming back.”
“I think the last few days have really made it clear that this is going to be a new reality for us, that the hate campaign and the violence will be turned up,” Reed said. “Something feels different the last few days – and that’s how I felt before this attack: it feels like hate is getting a bigger bullhorn, a stronger platform and access to more people.”
The influencers, who are active in online spaces targeting LGBTQ communities, circled the train cars last night in response to growing anger over Twitter’s reinstatement. Several painted themselves as victims in a position.
In other corners of the internet, where moderation is virtually non-existent, the Colorado Springs attack has been emphatically celebrated or peppered with conspiracies. In the conspiracy-oriented groups, the focus was on the club being called Club Q, which theorists believe indicates a false flag. In neo-Nazi chat groups and websites, fanatics applauded the attack. An influential Nazi website wrote that these attacks were “increasing,” adding, “Only those who fell victim to these attacks are to blame.”
Musk, for his part, spent the Weekend in hymn of praise right toady Celebrating the billionaire, his decision to restore previously suspended accounts, and his lax content moderation.
With files from Anya Zoledziowski