Civil rights activists condemn Musk’s decision to lift Trump’s Twitter ban

Trump adviser Steve Bannon (L) looks on as President Donald Trump greets Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, before a policy and strategy forum with executives in the State Dining Room of the White House February 3, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

Civil rights activists were quick to condemn Twitter owner Elon Musk’s decision to lift former US President Donald Trump’s ban from the platform, blaming the Tesla and SpaceX CEO to break commitments he made to them just weeks earlier when he first took over the platform.

“In Elon Musk’s Twittersphere, you can incite a riot in the US Capitol that resulted in the deaths of multiple people and still spread hate speech and violent conspiracies on his platform,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “Any advertiser still funding Twitter should stop all advertising immediately. If Elon Musk continues to operate Twitter like this, using garbage polls that do not represent the American people and the needs of our democracy, God help us all.”

Musk allowed Trump back onto the platform on Saturday after conducting a poll asking if he should leave the former president behind. Trump was permanently banned from Twitter under his previous leadership in the wake of January 1st. On February 6, 2021, a riot erupted in the US Capitol as lawmakers worked to confirm incumbent President Joe Biden’s election victory. Twitter leadership at the time feared Trump’s continued presence on the platform could lead to further incitement to violence as he continued to falsely claim the election had been stolen from him.

Musk’s use of the Twitter poll to determine Trump’s fate on the platform surprised many users, as the billionaire announced just weeks earlier that he would form a Content Moderation Council to make key policy decisions and decide whether locked accounts are to be restored.

Earlier this month, Musk had a call with civil rights activists from groups including the NAACP, Anti-Defamation League, Free Press and Color of Change to discuss concerns about moderation of content on the platform. Musk had also worked to reassure advertisers that the platform would not become a “free hellscape.”

But shortly after meeting civil rights activists, some of those groups urged advertisers to stop spending on Twitter, saying mass layoffs on the platform betrayed Musk’s commitment to making the platform safe for users.

Following Musk’s decision to give Trump a new platform, many of these groups doubled down on their calls.

“Until and until Musk can be trusted to enforce Twitter’s past community standards, the platform is not safe for users or advertisers,” said the #StopToxicTwitter coalition led by Accountable Tech, Free Press and Media Matters for America in a statement. “For those who currently advertise on Twitter, know that you are directly contributing to an unpredictable billionaire’s decimation of Twitter and its rapid transformation into utter chaos.”

“In less than three weeks, Musk has retracted every promise he made to civil rights activists and advertisers,” Free Press co-CEO Jessica J. González said in a statement. “Musk either changed his mind or lied to civil rights activists and advertisers. However, Musk has proven that he is not a man of his word.”

Twitter and Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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