Twitter owner Elon Musk’s goal for “general amnesty” towards banned accounts is in full swing. Since taking over, the multi-billionaire owner has given thousands of once-banned users access to their accounts once again. His extreme laissez faire-attitude has attracted some of Twitter’s worst characters back to the social network.
Just how many accounts once-suspended or banned accounts are now back on Twitter? Germany-based software developer Travis Brown has been tracking and publishing the unique Twitter IDs and screen names of banned accounts on a public Github list. Brown’s list has close to 12,000 accounts reinstated since Oct. 27. Since Nov. 8, there have been several hundred account reinstatements every day. On Nov. 21 in particular, there were close to 2,500 accounts allowed back.
And these accounts may be the tip of the iceberg. Platformer recently reported Musk is working to reinstate somewhere around 62,000 accounts with more than 10,000 followers.
A cursory look at some of the once-suspended accounts include several promoting vaccine misinformation (a kind of misinformation that Musk doesn’t have much time for anymore), obvious spam accounts, profiles that share copyrighted material, and adult content creators. To be clear, there were certainly a fair number of accounts that had only recently been suspended and were likely reaching the end of timed bans. A few other accounts that had been reinstated are once again banned. Twitter re-verified neo-Nazis Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler as part of Musk’s ill-fated expansion of subscriptions on the social network.
NBC first reported Friday on Brown’s project and a dataset that identifies numerous far-right accounts that have been allowed back on. Some accounts were also linked to the extreme QAnon conspiracy. White nationalist Patrick Casey is back on Twitter even though he once ran a major group that advocated for a white ethnostate, Identity Europa, and coined the notorious slogan “you will not replace us.”
Other subjects given a second chance on Twitter include Andrew Anglin, a neo-Nazi who has been running from a $14 million judgement made back in 2019 for leading a doxxing and harassment campaign against Jewish Montana residents. Anglin was let back on the platform Friday, and has deleted all his posts prior to his 2013 ban.
And while some of these alt-right accounts have been granted new life, some left-wing activists have found themselves suspended after reportedly finding themselves in the crosshairs of right-wing campaigns. The Intercept reported Tuesday on accounts like antifascist researcher Chad Loder had been suspended. On Loder’s Mastodon page, he pointed to an exchange on Twitter where Musk publicly asked right-wing figurehead Andy Ngo to report what the alt-right writer considered “Antifa” accounts.
A separate report from Media Matters for America, which also cited Brown’s data, noted the resurrection of other anti-semetic profiles like E. Michael Jones, who has used his platform to push anti-Jewish rhetoric to his more than 30,000 followers. Right Wing blogger David Vance has also regained access to the platform, access he’s used to tweet right-wing talking points like the “ghettoisation” of England, citing data on how many people in the country speak English. These accounts are on top of some of the most public ghouls that were once banned on Twitter for clearly breaking its rules, the same rules that we should point out are still listed on Twitter.
Gizmodo reached out to Twitter for comment but we have not heard back, and we do not expect to hear from the company after Musk axed its communications department. On Twitter, the billionaire platform owner claimed “extremists on far right and far left are simultaneously upset!”
Despite Musk’s claims to the contrary, data shows that hate speech is growing much more prevalent on the platform since Musk’s tenure began a little over a month ago, though it remains unclear how much of that is due to these reinstated accounts and how much is just because racists and radicals feel more emboldened.
Tracking where Musk is on Twitter bans is akin to tracking his moods from day to day. The self-described “free speech absolutist” has made exceptions, such as Thursday when he re-banned Kanye West’s account after the lauded rapper started posting swastikas on his Twitter profile and dared to post text messages he had with the billionaire. It had been barely a week since Musk welcomed Ye back onto the platform with open arms and memes.