As Musk takes over Twitter, users test limits
Conservative handles began recirculating long-debunked conspiracy theories to ‘test’ if they would be taken down.
Confusion, concern, conspiracies, celebration.
In the hours after Elon Musk took control of Twitter, reactions on the platform ranged from triumph to despair.
While no immediate policy changes had been announced by Friday afternoon, that didn’t stop users from cheering – or criticising – what they expected to be a quick embrace of Musk’s pledges to cut back on moderation in what he has said is an effort to promote free speech.
Conservative personalities on the site began recirculating long-debunked conspiracy theories, including about COVID-19 and the 2020 election, in a tongue-in-cheek attempt to “test” whether Twitter’s policies on misinformation were still being enforced.
Popular right-wing pundits tweeted buzzwords such as “ivermectin” and “Trump won” to see whether they would be penalised for content they suggested would previously have been flagged. Ivermectin, a cheap drug that kills parasites in humans and animals, has been promoted by some Republican politicians and conservative talk show hosts as an effective way to treat COVID-19. But health experts have warned there is scant evidence to support the belief that it works.
In a letter aimed to soothe the fears of advertisers, Musk promised Thursday that Twitter won’t be a “free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences”.
But the jury is still out on what will become of the social media platform and what it will tolerate. Observers are eyeing who stays, who goes and who might potentially come back from the list of people the platform has banned over the years. They range from former US President Donald Trump to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke – none of whom have returned to the platform so far.
The Associated Press checked at least a dozen other Twitter accounts that were suspended by the platform – including those used by right-wing activist James O’Keefe and MyPillow Chief Executive Mike Lindell – and each turned up an “account suspended” message as of Friday afternoon.
In a Tweet posted on Friday afternoon, Musk said Twitter will be forming a “content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints” and that “no major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes”.
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