Elon Musk said Thursday Twitter will grant “a general amnesty” to accounts that had been suspended from the platform beginning next week. The CEO posted a poll the day earlier over whether the platform should restore affected accounts.
The news comes within a week of Musk also ending former president Donald Trump’s ban from the platform after running a similar poll. Trump was banned after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, but said he doesn’t intend to return to the platform.
Musk’s poll to users included a caveat that suspended account holders could rejoin the platform “provided they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam.” Around 3.2 million users responded to the poll, which voted 72.4% in favor of amnesty.
“The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk said, using a Latin phrase that means “The voice of the people is the voice of god.”
Historically, Twitter has banned accounts that glorify hate and harassment, have the potential to incite violence or rampantly spread misinformation that can lead to harm. Some high-profile individuals who were banned include MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell after he made a series of claims that Trump actually won the 2020 presidential election; former Trump adviser and former executive chairman of Breitbart Steve Bannon after he said Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be beheaded; and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes for violating the site’s policy of prohibiting violent extremist groups.
It’s unclear from Musk’s brief tweet how Twitter will deal with content moderation in the future, now that more potentially problematic voices will be returning to the platform. These concerns have only been exacerbated by Musk’s mass layoffs and the general exodus of employees who’d rather quit than be “hardcore.”
Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, proposed a specific scenario in relation to hate speech against trans people.
“‘Trans people deserve to die'” is a legal statement and any account suspended for saying that could be brought back under the ‘general amnesty,'” Caraballo wrote. “This is like opening the gates to hell in terms of hate speech.”
Musk responded that this case would be considered an incitement to violence, which would continue to result in account suspension.
“Currently suspended accounts will be enabled slowly next week after manual review to determine whether they have potentially broken the law or engaged in spam,” Musk tweeted. “Twitter will be a forum for the peaceful exchange of views.”
Musk has stated several times that he hopes Twitter will be a forum for a peaceful exchange of views and a fair platform for all. His own petulant behavior on the platform, however, does not always seem to support this hope. Musk has called Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren “Senator Karen” and has responded to a tweet from Bernie Sanders saying, “I keep forgetting that you’re still alive.”
This article has been updated with the news with Twitter will continue to be intolerant of incitement to violence on the platform, as well as other new developments.