In the midst of what appears to be the resignation of most of its remaining workforce, Twitter CEO Elon Musk has reinstated formerly banned or locked accounts, apparently as an opening salvo in the platform’s new “freedom of speech” program. The accounts of comedian Kathy Griffin, author Jordan Petersen, and conservative satire publication The Babylon Bee were welcomed back to the platform on Friday, according to a tweet from Musk.
As part of Musk’s “Freedom Fridays,” Musk has notably brought back the accounts of The Babylon Bee and Petersen, whose accounts were both locked earlier this year for tweets misgendering trans people. In March, The Babylon Bee was locked for “hateful conduct,” following tweets misgendering Rachel Levine, a transwoman and current US assistant secretary of health. Months later in July, Petersen’s account was also similarly locked after posts misgendering trans actor Elliot Page. Petersen was quoted that he would “rather die” than delete his tweets.
In contrast to the hateful conduct lockouts, which appear to have been reversible all along if the users deleted the problem tweets, Griffin, had been “permanently suspended” from Twitter just days prior. In response to the messy Twitter Blue verification rollout, the comedian impersonated Musk, leading to her suspension. In tweets that — as is so often the case with Musk — might or might not have been jokes, Musk had already tweeted that Griffin’s suspension might not actually be permanent.
However, with Friday’s announcement, Musk updated Twitter’s position on hateful content. He’ll allow it on the site, but under the threat of shadowbans. According to his tweet, any “Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter.” The new moderation policy would make such content invisible “unless you specifically seek it out,” Musk tweeted.
It’s unclear what this form of content moderation would look like in practice. “Deboosting” tweets seemingly means removing the algorithmic “boost.” However, ensuring that a user “won’t find the tweet” accidentally would involve making retweets and quote tweets impossible as well, even in a critical context.
Having been in charge for just 16 days at this point, the new Twitter boss has begun to put his “free speech” program into practice by creating a day called “Freedom Friday,” and using it to bring back two right-wing accounts locked for hate, and one liberal account that had been banned for impersonating Musk himself. These moves have shown, to some users, what the new “hardcore” Twitter will look like going into the future.