Under the leadership of Elon Musk, Twitter has recently reinstated tens of thousands of accounts, some belonging to conspiracy theorists or anti-vaccination activists, at the risk of reviving the social network’s disinformation phenomenon.
More than 27,000 restored accounts have been suspended for misinformation, harassment and hate speech, according to developer Travis Browne, quoted by several organizations.
Contacted by AFP, he said his list was not complete and the number of such accounts could be higher.
Jonathan Nagler, co-director of the Center for Social Media and Policy at NYU (New York University), warns: “The recovery of these accounts will make the platform a magnet for actors who want to spread false information.”
“And there will be less moderation of hate speech, which will make the network less welcoming to many users,” he said.
Antivax figures, Trumpists and the far right
Among the personalities returning to Bluebird are “antivax” figures, such as cardiologist Peter McCullough or doctor Robert Malone, who were suspended a year ago for warning against the possible dangers of coronavirus vaccines, without confirmed information.
Since having his account unsuspended, Robert Malone, who has more than 869,000 subscribers, has posted several messages misrepresenting the Covid-19 vaccine.
Among the former outcasts who have been allowed back on the social network is former President Donald Trump, who is keeping his promise not to return just yet and to only use Truth Social, the social network he created last year.
Mike Lindell is one of those carrying the torch. The twice-suspended CEO of My Pillow in 2021 and die-hard Donald Trump supporter called for “melting down electronic voting machines and turning them into prison bars” as soon as his account is reinstated.
A direct reference to the conspiracy theory that the vote count in the 2020 presidential election was manipulated with the help of voting machines that were never shown.
Far-right activist Pamela Geller, described by the anti-extremism rights group the Southern Poverty Law Center as “one of the brightest anti-Muslim activists in the United States,” was also welcomed back on Twitter.
Earlier this week, the founder of The Geller Report posted a message about Muslim students who complained that a professor showed them pictures of the Prophet Muhammad. “Have they beheaded yet?” he tweeted, referring to the October 2020 killing of French history and geography professor Samuel Paty in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.
‘Super spreaders’ of misinformation ‘encouraged’
“In the Musk era, disinformation ‘super-propagators’ feel emboldened and readers have less evidence of the credibility of sources,” said Jack Brewster of the NewsGuard media watchdog.
In mid-December, Twitter said in a publication on its platform that the social network’s “permanent suspension is a disproportionate measure to violate the rules.”
Elon Musk later clarified that Twitter is committed to preventing “dangerous content as well as ‘malicious actors'” on its site. “Restored accounts must always follow our guidelines.”
Twitter was taken to task this week after an incident involving Buffalo Bills football player Damar Hamlin.
The 24-year-old defender’s cardiac arrest following a shock on the pitch on Monday led many Twitter users to link it to the coronavirus vaccine.
“Before the covid vaccines you didn’t see athletes falling as hard on the field as they do today,” House Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted. “It’s time to research Covid vaccines. »
While Elon Musk recently announced plans to hand over management of Twitter, the platform “will take more time to fix,” warns Nora Benavidez of the Free Press media watchdog.
He warns that “a series of actions must be taken to reverse Musk’s changes, reinvest in moderation, and rebuild governance of the platform.”