Musk lifted bans on thousands on Twitter. Here’s what they tweet.

Ever since Elon Musk bought Twitter in October, the self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist” has fought his way freely through the company’s moderation policy.

He initially argued that bans should be reserved for spam accounts and offered “Amnesty” two thousand suspended users and reinstatement of former President Donald J. Trump. Last week, he suspended several journalists, claiming they shared public flight data that revealed his private location. (Many of the bans were later reversed.)

To gauge how Mr. Musk’s content choices were affecting Twitter’s content, The New York Times analyzed tweets from more than 1,000 users whose accounts were recently restored. The posts were collected for The Times by Bright Data, a social media tracking company, using a list of recovered users identified by Travis Brown, a Berlin-based software developer who has tracked extremism on Twitter.

Most of the recovered accounts were deeply partisan — often vocal supporters of Mr. Trump — and they seemed eager to bring their fiery takes back to the social network. The data didn’t reveal why the users were initially suspended or reinstated, although their post histories suggest many were banned as Twitter cracked down on Covid-19 and election-related misinformation.

Imran Ahmed, the founder and executive director of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said Mr Musk’s message to the formerly banned users was clear: “Welcome back, welcome home.”

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

“Finally got this account back after getting banned for being a #republican thanks @elonmusk,” one user tweeted. Just 10 minutes later, the same person wrote, “Joe Biden is an illegitimate president and the 2020 election was stolen.”

Here’s some of what these users have been saying since returning to Twitter.

During the pandemic, Twitter instituted a policy that banned and suspended misinformation about the virus 11,000 accounts, including many prominent users after spreading untruths. But in November of this year, after Mr. Musk took control of the company, Twitter said that would be the case no longer enforce this policy.

Several reinstated users who were banned after the Covid-19 guidelines went into effect began posting again about the virus and its vaccines. Some have expressed doubts about the effectiveness of vaccines or suggested without evidence that vaccines kill people.

Several posts mentioned “Died Suddenly,” a misleading documentary released earlier this year that claimed people were dying from the vaccine. Others shared their own unsupported anecdotes.

“If you’ve seen ‘Died Suddenly,’ here’s more corroborating evidence,” one user tweeted, including a link to a website titled “Covid Jab Side Effects.” Prior to his ban in January 2021, the user had posted multiple times about Covid-19, including posts saying the virus was not dangerous.

Twitter cracked down on electoral fraud conspiracy theories after the 2020 election, banning thousands of accounts that spread false and misleading ideas about the election results. Hundreds of users have since returned to Twitter, once again pushing these ideas.

Many reinstated users focused on close races in the midterm elections, including the governor’s race in Arizona and the senate race in Pennsylvania. Kari Lake, the Republican nominee for Arizona governor, lost her race but refused to back down, citing problems with the voting process and alleging fraud. Many reinstated users repeated their ideas.

These tweets recycled falsehoods and conspiracy theories from the 2020 election, including the fact that voting machines were rigged to affect the outcome.

“Voters, not voting machines, used to decide Arizona elections,” tweeted one reinstated user. “That is no longer the case.”

On January 1st, the online conspiracy theory QAnon seems to have peaked. February 6, 2021, as hundreds of Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol. Twitter then suspended over 70,000 accounts linked to the group. But many of the movement’s core ideas continue to play a significant role in the far-right imagination.

On Twitter, reinstated users have returned to familiar topics in QAnon lore, raising questions about prominent Democrats and their association with Jeffrey Epstein, a former financier accused of child sex trafficking and a central figure in QAnon conspiracies.

They have claimed without evidence that Democrats and Hollywood personalities are involved in widespread sex trafficking and pedophilia. And they’ve also repeatedly claimed that liberals “groom” children with drag performances and sex education.

“I was reinstated today after 2 years of permanent suspension,” wrote one reinstated user with “QAnon” in their username. “I think I owe that to the new owner, thanks Elon Musk.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *