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Twitter braces for Donald Trump’s return as Elon Musk takes over platform

English NewsTwitter braces for Donald Trump’s return as Elon Musk takes over platform

Hate speech and misinformation experts are bracing for the return of Donald Trump to the platform, as Elon Musk completes his acquisition of Twitter.

The social media site permanently removed Trump in January 2021, saying the former president’s tweets were “highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021”.

However, earlier this year Musk said he would reverse that ban, calling Twitter “left-biased”, and on Thursday he reportedly sacked the executive responsible.

“I do think it was not correct to ban Donald Trump,” the Tesla chief executive told a Financial Times conference in May. “I think that was a mistake. It alienated the country and did not result in Donald Trump not having a voice. I think it was a morally bad decision and foolish in the extreme.”

Within hours of taking charge of Twitter, and before the completed acquisition was even formally confirmed, Musk sacked Vijaya Gadde, the head of legal and policy, alongside Twitter’s chief executive officer, chief financial officer and general counsel.

Gadde, who joined the company in 2011 as general counsel, had risen to become the most powerful woman at the site, with a remit that covered moderation, public policy and legal affairs. As such, she is the staff member most identified with the suspension of Trump, and her exit created questions around Musk’s future plans.

Musk however said in a tweet on Friday the platform would be forming “a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints” to address such issues. “No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes,” he wrote

Trump himself has been ambivalent. In a post on his personal “Truth Social” website, in which he falsely claimed that it had “bigger numbers than all other platforms”, he said he preferred his own site, but that he was “very happy that Twitter is now in sane hands, and will no longer be run by Radical Left Lunatics and Maniacs that truly hate our country”.

Civil rights advocates warn that the billionaire’s proposed changes, which are thus far vague but focus on moderating content less closely, in the name of “freedom of speech”, risk making the platform “a supercharged engine of radicalisation”. Allowing Trump to return in particular could have a huge impact on content.

In his time on the platform, the former president amassed more than 88 million followers. He shared strange and crude missives as well as troubling apparent calls for violence against media, market-moving tweets about companies, and threats of nuclear war. Allowing him to return would amplify his reach at a time when social media firms are already struggling to tamp down election misinformation, experts say.

“Musk made it clear that he would roll back Twitter’s community standards and safety guidelines, reinstate Donald Trump along with scores of other accounts suspended for violence and abuse, and open the floodgates of disinformation,” said Angelo Carusone, the president of the advocacy group Media Matters for America.

Media Matters and a coalition of 26 other human rights groups have published a letter asking Twitter advertisers to boycott the platform if Musk’s acquisition leads to more lax policies on hate speech and misinformation, warning that the takeover “will further toxify our information ecosystem and be a direct threat to public safety”.

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