Under the leadership of Elon Musk, Twitter recently restored tens of thousands of accounts, some of which belonged to conspirators or opponents of vaccination, at the risk of reviving a phenomenon of misinformation on the social network.
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According to developer Travis Brown quoted by several organizations, more than 27,000 restored accounts had been suspended for misinformation, harassment and demonstrations of hatred.
Contacted by AFP, he said his list was incomplete and that the number of such accounts could be higher.
"Restoring these accounts will make the platform a magnet for actors who want to spread false information," warns Jonathan Nagler, co-director of the Center on Social Media and Politics at NYU (New York University).
“And there will be less moderation of hate speech, which will make the network less hospitable for many users,” he adds.
Among the personalities returning to the blue bird, "antivax" figures such as cardiologist Peter McCullough or doctor Robert Malone, who had been suspended a year ago for having warned against the supposed dangerousness of vaccines against the coronavirus, without verified information to support it.
Since lifting the suspension of his account, Robert Malone, who has more than 869,000 subscribers, has posted several messages relaying false information about the vaccine against COVID-19.
Among the former outcasts again authorized on the social network, there is also former President Donald Trump, who nevertheless keeps, for the moment, to his promise not to return and to use only the social network Truth Social, which he created himself last year.
Mike Lindell is one of those who have taken up the torch. Suspended twice in 2021, the CEO of the My Pillow company and unconditional supporter of Donald Trump called, as soon as his account was restored, to “melt down the electronic voting machines to make them prison bars”.
A direct reference to the conspiracy theory that the vote count in the 2020 presidential election was manipulated with the help of voting machines, which has never been demonstrated.
Also readmitted on Twitter, far-right activist Pamela Geller, presented by the legal organization for the fight against extremism Southern Poverty Law Center as “one of the most flamboyant anti-Muslim activists in the United States”.
Reinvest in moderation
Earlier this week, the creator of The Geller Report site posted a message about Muslim students who had complained that a teacher had shown them images of the Prophet Muhammad.
“Have they already beheaded him?”, She tweeted, in reference to the murder of the French professor of history and geography Samuel Paty, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, in the suburbs of Paris, in October 2020.
“Under the Musk era, super-spreaders of disinformation feel emboldened and readers have less evidence on the reliability of sources,” said Jack Brewster of the NewsGuard media observatory.
In mid-December, Twitter had indicated in a publication on its platform that a “permanent suspension was a disproportionate measure for having broken the rules” of the social network.
Elon Musk then clarified that Twitter “remains committed to preventing dangerous content” on its site, as well as “malicious actors”. "Reinstated accounts must always follow our rules."
Twitter was taken to task this week after an incident involving Buffalo Bills football player Damar Hamlin.
The 24-year-old defender's cardiac arrest on Monday after a shock on the pitch was the occasion for many Twitter users to make a connection with the coronavirus vaccine.
"Before the COVID-19 vaccines, you didn't see athletes falling hard on the field like you do today," tweeted Republican House Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene. "It's time to investigate COVID-19 vaccines."
While Elon Musk has recently indicated that he plans to hand over the management of Twitter, it “will take more to fix” the platform, warns Nora Benavidez, of the media observatory Free Press.
It will be necessary, she warns, to take “a series of steps to reverse Musk’s changes, reinvest in moderation and restructure the governance of the platform.”