Musk will restore suspended Twitter accounts for harassment and misinformation ~| Washington


Elon Musk plans to restore almost all previously suspended Twitter accounts – to the concern of activists and online trust and security experts.

After releasing a Twitter poll asking, “Should Twitter offer a general amnesty to banned accounts provided they haven’t broken the law or engaged in egregious spam?” in which 72.4 percent of respondents voted yes , Musk declared: “The amnesty begins next week.”

The Twitter CEO did not respond to a request for comment from The Post on Thursday. The poll received more than 3 million votes.

The en masse return of users banned for offenses such as violent threats, harassment, abuse and misinformation would have a significant impact on the platform, experts said. And many wondered how such a revival would be handled, given it’s unclear what Musk means by “egregious spam” and the difficulty of weeding out users who “broke the law,” which varies widely by jurisdiction and country is.

“Apple and Google need to start booting Twitter out of the App Store in earnest,” said Alejandra Caraballo, clinical instructor at the Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic. “What Musk is doing is existentially dangerous for various marginalized communities. It’s like opening the gates of hell in terms of the devastation it will cause. Individuals who engaged in direct targeted harassment may come back and engage in doxxing, targeted harassment, malicious bullying, inciting violence, and celebrating violence. I can’t even begin to tell you how dangerous that will be.”

Musk’s “free speech” agenda is dismantling security work at Twitter, insiders say

This is the second time in a week that Musk has used a Twitter poll to appear to make a major decision regarding the platform. On November 18, he reinstated former President Donald Trump’s account after 52 percent of those polled said he should do so. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted, Latin for “the voice of the people is the voice of God.” “‘

That day he also unilaterally reactivated at least 11 high-profile far-right Twitter accounts, including Jordan Peterson, a professor banned from Twitter for falsely gendering a trans person, and Babylon Bee, a conservative media outlet. He also restored Project Veritas, a site frequently accused of misrepresenting events it commented on and banned “for repeated violations of Twitter’s privacy policy,” and Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene’s personal account, which has been suspended since January for violating was blocked against the platform’s Covid-19 guidelines. 19 misinformation policies and the promotion of violent and extreme rhetoric.

Experts say bots and bad actors can easily skew the results of a Twitter poll, so basing decisions on one is irresponsible. “A Twitter poll can be manipulated, it’s not in any way scientific or rigorous in what it’s doing,” said Sarah T. Roberts, UCLA associate professor and faculty director of UCLA’s Center for Critical Internet Inquiry, who previously did research at Twitter Content moderation processes.

“Before Elon took over,” Roberts added, “there were entire teams of people doing market and user research and following strict protocols set up for conducting this type of research. All of a sudden, he’s running Twitter with totally unscientific polls that ask unknown people, and certainly not a demographically representative group of people.”

Many predicted that restoring suspended accounts would have very poor results and help create the “free-for-all hellscape” that Musk promised to advertisers in a letter issued the day he took ownership of the platform , was published on Twitter.

“This would be a major disaster, especially in Africa where government-sponsored Ghost accounts have been suspended for endangering human rights activists and journalists.” Hopewell Chin’ono, tweeted a journalist in Africa. “You would have allowed despicable people to endanger our lives as journalists! You will have blood on your hands @elonmusk.”

Twitter king Dril on Musk’s chaotic rule

Whether Musk can do what the Twitter poll calls for is debatable. He fired the heads of the trust and security team that would normally handle the logistics of reactivating the accounts. And singling out those who “broke the law” is entirely dependent on Twitter having detailed documentation for each suspension that includes which local laws the tweet broke. Without such a legal filter, which would depend on state and local laws for each tweet, each account would have to be scrutinized in detail. Laws also vary greatly by country and region.

Madeleine Burkholder, a senior technical solutions engineer who has worked on managing spam for consumer products, said Musk’s request was nonsensical. “Egregious spamming isn’t a technical term,” she said, and most records at big tech companies don’t include questions about local government laws. The norm is to simply note if an account has violated a company’s terms of service, which are rules set by the platform, not some sort of law.

“It’s going to be really hairy pulling those strings apart and figuring out what the exact behavior was that led to her suspension,” Burkholder said. “Was it a harmless mistake? Was it malicious? How bad was it? … Doing that in a single case is a challenge, if you’re trying to do it for every account you’re bound to make mistakes.”

Angelo Carusone, chairman and president of Media Matters, a nonprofit advocacy group and media regulator, said Musk’s reinstatement of suspended accounts could mean restoring networks of individuals, including America’s Nazi Party and “a whole host of 8chan, 4chan, conspiracy theorists who… engage in harassment and abuse.” 8chan and 4chan are two forums known for their racist and anti-Semitic posts.

Lifting the suspensions would mean “transforming Twitter into a focal point for the operationalization of doxing and harassment and an engine for radicalization,” Carusone said. “That’s a red Pez pill dispenser.” And quitting Twitter won’t protect you. “Even if you’re not on Twitter, you can still be a recipient of these campaigns,” he said. He predicted public health officials, election officials, journalists and teachers would be targeted.

“Making important moderation and enforcement decisions on a whim worries the behavior of CEOs,” said Nora Benavidez, senior counsel and director of digital justice and civil rights at Free Press, a nonprofit advocacy group. “Under the auspices of democracy, Musk legitimizes decisions that will have deeply dangerous consequences in the real world.”

Benavidez said organizations like Free Press have spent years educating tech giants on complex trust and security issues and “pressuring them to understand the really delicate and complex role they play in mitigating harm, the real people.” is added”. If a “general amnesty” is granted for the majority of banned accounts, “it will be an open season for people banned for hate, harassment, disinformation, conspiracy and extremism,” Benavidez said. “It’s Open Season in the most dangerous way.”

“You have journalists, activists in authoritarian regimes in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, who are now at the mercy of even more vicious trolls and unable to fight back,” Caraballo said. “It’s literally a matter of life or death for people.”

Advertisers are dropping Twitter. Musk can’t afford to lose any more.

The lifting of the lockdowns was particularly troubling for LGBTQ activists as they came just days after a mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs that killed five and wounded 18. Several of the recovered accounts had previously been banned for hateful rhetoric towards the gay and trans community, and Musk has been criticized for shaming Tim Pool, a right-wing YouTube star who falsely claimed the club had a “care event” and others hosted anti-LGBTQ accounts.

“This is a slap in the face to LGBTQ people,” Caraballo said.

In the days after he took over Twitter, Musk initially vowed not to change the site’s moderation policy and would restore accounts until he appointed a moderation council. But more recently, Musk has backtracked on naming such a council, firing hundreds of Twitter employees tasked with overseeing posts on the site.

Dozens of Twitter advertisers have stopped spending on the platform following Musk’s acquisition over concerns about how his approach to content moderation could affect the site’s tone.