The risk of misinformation on Twitter increases after old banned accounts return

Tens of thousands of accounts have been restored to Twitter. Many of them have used the platform to spread conspiracy theories and misinformation.

Under the leadership of Elon Musk, Twitter has recently restored thousands of accounts, some of which belong to conspirators or opponents of vaccination, at the risk of reviving a phenomenon of disinformation on the social network.

According to developer Travis Brown quoted by several organizations, more than 27,000 restored accounts were suspended for misinformation, harassment and hate speech. Contacted by AFP, he said his list was incomplete and the number of such accounts could be higher.

“Not much moderation of hate speech”

“Restoring these accounts will make the platform a magnet for actors who want to spread misinformation,” warned 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 added.

Among the personalities returning to the blue bird are “antivax” figures such as cardiologist Peter McCullough or doctor Robert Malone, who were suspended a year ago for warning against the alleged dangers of anti-vaccines. on the coronavirus, without verified information to support it.

Since his account was unsuspended, Robert Malone, who has more than 869,000 subscribers, has posted several messages conveying false information about the Covid-19 vaccine.

Among the former outcasts who have been re-authorized on the social network, there is also the former President Donald Trump, who nevertheless keeps, for the time being, his promise not to return and only use the social network Truth Social, which he himself created last year .

Questioning the 2020 American ballot

Mike Lindell was one of those who took 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 is restored, to “melt down the electronic voting machines to turn them into 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 not yet been demonstrated.

Also received on Twitter, the 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”.

Earlier this week, the creator of The Geller Report site posted a message about Muslim students who complained that a professor showed them pictures of the Prophet Muhammad.

“Have they cut him yet?”, he tweeted, referring to the murder of French history-geography professor Samuel Paty, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, in the suburbs of Paris, in October 2020.

“Under the Musk era, the ‘super-spreaders’ of disinformation feel emboldened and readers have less evidence of the reliability of sources,” said Jack Brewster of the NewsGuard media observatory.

“Determined to prevent harmful content”

In mid-December, Twitter said in a post on its platform that the “permanent suspension is a disproportionate step for violating 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”. “Restored accounts must always comply with our policies.”

Twitter was taken to task this week after an incident involving Buffalo Bills football player Damar Hamlin. The cardiac arrest of the 24-year-old defender on Monday after a shock on the pitch was the occasion for many Twitter users to make the connection with the coronavirus vaccine.

“Before the Covid vaccines, you didn’t see athletes falling as hard on the field as they do today,” tweeted Republican House of Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene. “It’s time to investigate Covid vaccines.”

While Elon Musk recently indicated that he plans to hand over management of Twitter, it will “take more time to fix” the platform, warns Nora Benavidez, of the media observatory Free Press.

It will be necessary, he warned, to take “a series of steps to reverse Musk’s changes, reinvest in moderation and reorganize the management of the platform”.

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