Tycoon Elon Musk has decided to reactivate conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' account on his social network on Sunday. Twitter suspended her in 2018 after her persistent hoaxes and misinformation, which have led to multimillion-dollar defamation convictions. Musk initially pledged to keep him on the sidelines, but has ultimately decided to reinstate him. Jones tweeted on Sunday announcing a two-hour interview with Elon Musk on X, the new name of the network where the hoax propagator has 1.2 million followers.
Twitter decided to permanently suspend Jones' account in 2018 for violating the company's "abusive behavior policy." The decision followed a defamation lawsuit against Jones for spreading the hoax that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the tragedy that cost the lives of 20 children and six educators, was a hoax.
Jones falsely claimed over and over again that the shooting never really happened, but was a theatrical effort for stricter gun regulation. The founder of Infowars, who has spread other conspiracy theories, was ordered to pay multimillion-dollar damages to the parents of the victims, who suffered cases of threats and harassment from those they believed to be fakers, listening to Jones. He was ordered to pay about $1.500 billion. Jones has appealed the sentences, arguing that he did not get a fair trial and that his speech was protected by the First Amendment, which enshrines free speech. Musk's decision to reinstate Jones comes just week on the anniversary of the shooting.
The billionaire had already hinted that he was planning to be readmitted on Thursday, when he announced a vote to wrap his decision in. "Since this platform aspires to be the global town square, permanent bans should be extremely rare," he wrote, implying that if he spread hoaxes again, the users themselves would take it upon themselves to correct him. 70% of the minimum proportion of X users who have voted have said they are in favour of reactivating Alex Jones' account.
Advertisers have fled Twitter for fear that their ads will appear next to hate or misinformation messages, once Musk has scrapped content moderation policies that curbed them. Musk himself has spread hoaxes and conspiracy theories. He spread a fake news story about the assault on Paul Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi's husband.
More recently, he sparked outrage with his own tweets when he replied to a message from a user who accused Jews of hating white people and professing indifference to anti-Semitism. The message subscribed to the replacement conspiracy theory, according to which Jews are supporting "hordes of minorities" who are "flooding" the country to replace whites. That conspiracy theory was the same one that motivated the deadly shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018. "You've told the plain truth," Musk tweeted.
Two weeks ago, at a conference in New York, he apologized if that message had encouraged anti-Semitism: "I'm so sorry," he said. "In hindsight, I shouldn't have responded to that particular message," he added. But at that same event, he confronted advertisers who had decided to flee from the toxic content of his social network. "Is someone going to try to blackmail me with advertising? Blackmail me with money? Get fucked in the ass! Fuck you-ass-you! Is that clear?" he said. Among the companies that have recently canceled or suspended advertising on the social network are IBM, Apple, Disney, Sony, Warner, Paramount and Lionsgate.
After buying Twitter last year, Musk said he was going to grant "amnesty" to suspended accounts. He reinstated, first, comedian Kathie Griffin, writer Jordan Peterson, and conservative satirical publication The Babylon Bee. Then, after another vote, former President Donald Trump; Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, after two suspensions for anti-Semitic posts last year; and Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was banned from the social network for violating its covid-related misinformation policies.
He made those decisions personally even though earlier, to reassure advertisers, he had said he would wait for the opinion of an advisory board before making any relevant decisions about changes to the content moderation policy. "Before the council meets, no major decisions will be made on content or accounts reinstated," he said. Then, he changed his mind.
On the other hand, contrary to its self-proclaimed absolutism of freedom of expression, it not only bows to the censorious demands of authoritarian governments, but has also decided to silence critical or annoying voices. It has suspended, for example, the account of software developer Travis Brown, an account tracking his private jet, or that of Aaron Greenspan, founder of the public and legal records database PlainSite, a critic of Musk and Tesla.
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