Elon Musk has again poked a fire of controversy as “chief twit” by vowing to reinstate a large proportion of suspended Twitter accounts, a move which experts say will undo the work done to make women feel safe online.
On Wednesday, Musk tweeted a poll asking his followers to vote on whether he should give amnesty to suspended accounts that haven’t broken the law or “or engaged in egregious spam.” Seventy-two percent voted yes.
Musk told his 118 million followers that the “amnesty begins next week” and signed off with the Latin phrase, “Vox Populi, Vox Dei”, which translates as “the voice of the people, the voice of God.”
Musk took a similar approach last week when deciding to reinstate former US president Donald Trump, who was banned due to his role in stoking up the rage that led to the Capitol Hill riots in 2021.
Twitter has spent years moderating its platform with account suspension in an attempt to eradicate harassment and hate speech.
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Some experts believe the amnesty will take an especially heavy toll on women, giving back a voice to those who had previously been suspended for targeted online harassment.
“There have been a lot of accounts banned for a long time – and for good reason, so to suddenly undo all that work could make people feel particularly unsafe online, especially women,” Matt Littler, founder of media production firm ARK Immersive, tells Verdict.
Littler believes that many hate speech accounts and trolls could again be made active as they’re not commonly punished by law.
“It may not be within the remit of the law to punish these people, that doesn’t mean that their behaviour hasn’t been threatening to women and made them feel uncomfortable,” adds Littler.
While Littler notes that it’s possible some accounts could have been suspended by accident, he suggests a better system for reinstatement would be to “reform the appeal process and support women online.”
“I think Elon Musk is used to lightning striking, but with Twitter I don’t think it’s striking twice,” Littler says.