Musk says general amnesty on banned accounts begins next week as blue tick to be relaunched

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

he billionaire’s announcement came after he asked 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 yes vote was 72pc.

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

Mr Musk used the same Latin phrase after posting a similar poll last last weekend before reinstating the account of former president Donald Trump, which Twitter had banned for encouraging the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection.

Mr Trump has said he will not 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 Mr Musk took over Twitter, groups that monitor the platform for racist, antisemitic and other toxic speech say it has been on the rise on the world’s de facto public square.

That has included a surge in racist abuse of World Cup football players that Twitter is allegedly failing to act on.

The uptick in harmful content is in large part due to the disorder following Mr Musk’s decision to lay off half the company’s 7,500-person workforce, fire top executives, and then institute 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 Mr Musk’s willingness to keep Twitter from devolving into a chaos of uncontrolled speech were Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth.

Major advertisers have also abandoned the platform.

On October 28, the day after he took control, Mr 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 had agreed to at the insistence of “a large coalition of political-social activists groups” who later “broke the deal” by urging that advertisers at least temporarily stop giving Twitter their business.

A day earlier, Twitter reinstated the personal account of far-right Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene, which was banned in January for violating the platform’s Covid misinformation policies.

However, he has said he will not reinstate the account of Alex Jones, who spread lies about the Sandy Hook school massacre.

Mr Musk, meanwhile, has been getting increasingly friendly on Twitter with right-wing figures. Before this month’s US midterm elections, he urged “independent-minded” people to vote Republican.

Twitter has lost its last remaining employees in the regulatory hub of Brussels, at a time when it faces increasing scrutiny from EU lawmakers.

The small office of six employees was cut to two in recent weeks following Musk’s dramatic culling of staff. The remaining two members left over the past week, after Musk called for staff to commit to a “hardcore working culture.”

The Brussels office was a key hub for Twitter to engage with a deluge of European regulation, much of which has only recently come into force. The social media platform has long battled a perception it has failed to manage hate-speech and disinformation.

Julia Mozer and Dario La Nasa, senior public policy managers and the last staff remaining in the Brussels office, left over the last week, the people said, who declined to comment on the record about staff departures.

Musk also said Twitter will tentatively launch its blue check subscription and verified feature next Friday, after holding off on the launch earlier this week.

The social media platform will use different colour checks for organizations and individuals, Musk said.

“Gold check for companies, grey check for governments, blue for individuals (celebrities or not). Painful, but necessary,” Musk said in a tweet.

All verified accounts will be manually authenticated before the check is activated, Musk said.

The company had paused its recently announced $8 blue check subscription service as fake accounts mushroomed, and had said the sought-after blue check subscription service will be relaunched on November 29.

The coveted blue check mark was previously reserved for verified accounts of politicians, famous personalities, journalists and other public figures. 

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