He had announced these returns at the end of November. Under the leadership of Elon Musk, Twitter recently restored tens of thousands of accounts, some of which belonged to conspirators or opponents of vaccination, at the risk of reviving a phenomenon of disinformation on the social network. “Re-establishing these accounts will make the platform a magnet for actors who want to spread false information,” warns Jonathan Nagler, co-director of the Center on Social Networks and Politics at New York University, on Monday. “And there will be less moderation of hate speech, which will make the network less hospitable for many users”he adds.
According to developer Travis Brown, quoted by several organizations, more than 27,000 restored accounts had been suspended for misinformation, harassment and displays of hatred. However, he claimed that his list was incomplete and that the number of such accounts could be higher.
Dangers of vaccines
Among the personalities returning to the social network are representatives of the American “antivax” movement, such as cardiologist Peter McCullough and doctor Robert Malone. The latter had been suspended a year ago for having warned against the supposed dangerousness of vaccines against the coronavirus, without verified information in support. Since lifting the suspension of his account, which has more than 869,000 subscribers, Malone has published several messages relaying false information about the Covid-19 vaccine. Especially since Twitter decided at the end of November to lift its regulations which aimed to fight against false publications in the field of the fight against the pandemic.
Another former outcast re-cleared: former President Donald Trump, who is nevertheless, for now, sticking to his promise not to return and to use only the Truth Social social network, which he himself created last year. Influential businessman Mike Lindell is also among those who have taken up the torch. Suspended twice in 2021, the CEO of the company My Pillow and unconditional support of the former American head of state called, as soon as his account was restored, to “melt down electronic voting machines to make them prison bars”. A direct reference to the conspiracy theory that the vote count in the 2020 presidential election was manipulated with the help of voting machines, which has never been demonstrated.
Also readmitted on Twitter: far-right activist Pamela Geller, presented by legal organization fighting extremism Southern Poverty Law Center as “one of America’s most flamboyant anti-Muslim activists”.
The moderation of Twitter has been found wanting several times in recent days, notably after the cardiac arrest of an American football player, Damar Hamlin. The serious incident suffered by the member of the Buffalo Bills team, 24, after a shock on the field was the occasion for many Twitter users to make a connection with the vaccine against the coronavirus. “Before the vaccines against the Covid, we did not see athletes falling steeply on the ground as it happens today”tweeted the elected Republican in the House of Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene, follower of conspiracy theories of QAnon.
Shortcomings that were noted by analyst Jack Brewster of the NewsGuard media observatory: “Under the Musk era, the ”super-spreaders” of disinformation feel encouraged and readers have less information available on the reliability of sources”.
In mid-December, Twitter defended its reinstatement policy by arguing that a “permanent suspension was a disproportionate measure for breaking the rules” of the social network. Elon Musk then clarified that the company “remained committed to preventing dangerous content” on its site as well as the “malicious actors”, and “reinstated accounts must always follow our rules.”
While the mogul recently claimed he plans to hand over leadership of Twitter, he “will take more to fix” the platform, warns Nora Benavidez, of the Free Press media observatory. It will be necessary, she warns, to take “a series of measures to reverse Musk’s changes, reinvest in moderation and restructure the governance of the platform”.