Elon Musk’s decision to reverse Twitter suspensions in the name of free speech continues to provoke an ugly backlash, with tweeters naming and shaming reinstated accounts they say are associated with neo-Nazi ideology. One observer puts the number of reinstatements at around 12,000 so far.
“Some examples of who @elonmusk is verifying now: a Nazi who lost his verification after organizing a Nazi rally, an account that’s banned in Germany for Nazi s**t, [...] and ‘dead tw*tter [sic] employee hanging from a tree groyper,’” posted one angry tweeter, Travis Brown.
Brown’s diligence in documenting the apparent resurgence of extremists on the popular social media platform – acquired by billionaire and self-proclaimed free speech evangelist Musk for $44 billion after he tried and failed to back out of the deal – did not go unnoticed.
Another Twitter-watcher, JM Berger, posted an update on his online newsletter, World Gone Wrong, in which he claimed Brown had “observed what must now be well over 12,000 restored accounts, with a heavy far-right focus.”
Berger added: “The main issue highlighted by the scale of activity is that Musk’s promised ‘manual reviews’ of accounts are about as credible as his earlier promise that an independent committee would review reinstatements before they happened.”
However, Berger caveated his criticisms with the observation that though “objectively large,” the reinstatements still composed only a fraction of the accounts originally suspended.
Worse to come?
But he warned that worse could be yet to come, with many alleged extremists applying for reinstatement in the wake of Musk’s declaration that Twitter, under his stewardship, would be a bastion of free speech.
“At least some reinstated users have reported that their ‘unsuspension’ was the result of a new appeal, even when previous appeals had been denied,” said Berger. “Some said they had filed their appeals after hearing about Musk’s plans for the platform. Other reinstatements were less clear, and based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m fairly sure other methods are in play.”
Berger declined to elaborate on what those might be but added that most of the resurgent activity he had witnessed thus far was associated with an American conspiracy far-right group QAnon, which was largely purged from Twitter following the January 6 riots after Donald Trump lost the election.
“The most activity I’ve seen in my monitoring so far comes from accounts suspended in the massive QAnon purge that took place in and around January 2021,” he claimed. “Many “final tweets” from this dataset are celebrating the January 6 insurrection. Some older alt-right accounts have also resurfaced.”
In the latter case, many of these were “picking up right where they left off,” according to Berger.
“A lot of the reinstated accounts are tweeting at high volumes, with many harassing @ replies addressed to people they hate,” he said.
Russian bots dust off rust
Berger also claimed a Russian element had resurfaced on the platform in the wake of the Musk takeover, including antiquated bots, or ‘robot’ Twitter accounts controlled by machines, that had been inactive for years.
“An extremely old cluster of Russian bots just came back online,” he said. “Perhaps you’re old enough to remember when they had numbers for their handles. That’s how old this cluster is. Most of the accounts haven’t tweeted for years and years, and none of them have resumed tweeting so far.”
Such claims are difficult to verify, and at the time of writing Cybernews was unable to do so.
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