On December 16, new Twitter CEO Elon Musk seemingly reinstated at least a dozen right-wing accounts, many of which were previously banned for pushing misinformation or after the January 6 insurrection. These reinstatements come the day after Musk, who claims to be a “free speech absolutist,” suspended the accounts of numerous mainstream journalists.
After reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, The Intercept, Mashable, and Voice of America, as well as a set of independent journalists, were “permanently suspended” on Twitter, Musk joined a Twitter Space to say the suspensions were related to new rules he implemented to ban accounts tracking private jets: “You doxx, you get suspended. End of story. That's it.” The reporters, who will supposedly be allowed back on the platform after seven days, dispute Musk’s assertion that they revealed his “exact real-time location, basically assassination coordinates.”
These suspensions come as Musk has implemented what he calls “amnesty,” in which he unilaterally reinstates suspended accounts, including those that post misinformation and amplify right-wing talking points. Since officially taking over Twitter, Musk has reportedly reinstated over 15,500 accounts, including those of former President Donald Trump, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), COVID-19 misinformers including Robert Malone and Peter McCullough, and other right-wing personalities.
Media Matters has been monitoring suspended right-wing accounts and has now identified 12 previously suspended right-wing accounts that were all seemingly reinstated on December 16:
Businessman Mike Lindell is one of the most outspoken Trump supporters who claims the 2020 election was stolen from the former president. After the 2020 elections, Lindell heavily promoted false election fraud claims that social media platforms struggled to contain from spreading. Twitter permanently banned him in late January 2021 for repeated violations of its misinformation policy. He tried to keep tweeting from his business account, but that was suspended too. In May of this year, he again made another account but was quickly suspended. After his account was reinstated on December 16, Lindell tweeted: “I'm back!! Thank you @elonmusk and by the way MELT DOWN THE ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINES AND TURN THEM INTO PRISON BARS!”
Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe was banned from Twitter in April 2021 for violating “platform manipulation and spam” policies and seemingly reinstated on December 16, 2022. In one of his last ventures before being banned from the platform, O’Keefe went on a tirade attacking CNN, calling the network a “propaganda arm of Black Lives Matter” and baselessly claiming they hyped “COVID death numbers” to “pump up their ratings.” Responding to his reinstatement, O’Keefe tweeted, “I’M BACK ON TWITTER LIKE I NEVER LEFT.”
Far-right anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller was suspended in February 2021 for violating Twitter’s rules about election integrity and seemingly reinstated on December 16, 2022. After her account was unlocked, Geller thanked Musk directly and tweeted, “I’m back!”
Former Newsmax reporter Emerald Robinson was suspended in November 2021 for violating Twitter’s COVID-19 misinformation policies and seemingly reinstated on the platform on December 16, 2022. Robinson has yet to post on her account, though tweets undermining COVID-19 vaccines and pushing conspiracy theories remain.
Jim Hoft and Gateway Pundit
Far-right outlet Gateway Pundit’s account, which is run by founder and Editor-in-Chief Jim Hoft, was seemingly reinstated on December 16. It was banned in February 2021 — shortly after the January 6 insurrection — for continuing to promote falsehoods that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump. In response to being allowed back on Twitter, Hoft tweeted: “The Gateway Pundit is back!” and thanked Musk.
Mindy Robinson is a model, reality TV star, and QAnon supporter who was a Republican congressional candidate from Nevada in the 2020 elections. Her last tweet before her account was suspended, which was posted a few days after the January 6, 2021, riot, claimed that a BLM activist “not only intended to escalate violence at the Capitol...but had masqueraded as a Trump supporter while in DC too.” In response to her account’s restoration, Robinson tweeted, “Guess who’s back on Twitter!” with a picture of her holding a gun in front of an American flag, asking people to comment on her tweet so she could follow them back.
Trump ally Patrick Byrne, the former CEO of Overstock who is connected to the QAnon movement, was suspended in January 2021, days after the January 6 insurrection, for his role in spreading lies that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. It appears that Byrne’s account has been reinstated, but hasn’t tweeted again yet.
Right-wing preacher Greg Locke was banned from Twitter in September 2021 after he promoted false information about COVID-19 on the platform. Locke has a history of spreading coronavirus vaccine and QAnon misinformation, and in his last tweet told his followers to “Stop complying. It’s that simple.” It appears that Locke’s account has been reinstated, but hasn’t tweeted again yet.
Wayne Allyn Root
Right-wing extremist commentator Wayne Allyn Root was banned from Twitter in February 2021 after continuing to claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen after the violent January 6 insurrection. Root celebrated his return by tweeting: I"M BAAACK! Liberal (ie communist traitor) heads get ready to explode! God bless Elon Musk. God bless President Trump. God bless free speech. And God Bless America!”
Shiva Ayyadurai, a QAnon-linked Republican candidate who ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2022, was suspended from Twitter in February 2021. Ayyadurai has spread numerous conspiracy theories, including baselessly claiming that Massachusetts destroyed over 1 million ballots during the 2020 election. It appears that Ayyadurai’s account has been reinstated, but hasn’t tweeted again yet.
Larry Cook is an anti-vaccine figure who was seemingly suspended from Twitter in November 2020. He said he is also banned on other social media platforms Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Vimeo, and Pinterest. In his Twitter bio, he has a common QAnon hashtag, #WWG1WGA, and links to an anti-vaccine website.