Several previously banned Twitter accounts that were reinstated under Elon Musk’s leadership, such as those of the COVID skeptic Dr. Robert Malone, Project Veritas and its ringleader James O'Keefe, and the anti-Muslim troll Laura Loomer, have embraced Twitter Spaces as a means to reach a larger audience.
Media Matters identified 45 “Spaces,” or live audio chats on Twitter, that 19 previously banned accounts either hosted or made significant contributions to in January 2023. These chats, most of which were multiple hours long, allowed a revolving door for right-wing and fringe figures to reach audiences often topping 10,000 listeners per chat. Overall, these 45 chats reached a combined total of nearly 977,000 listeners, with those hosted by Project Veritas reaching 396,000 alone.
Despite assuring civil rights groups, advertisers, and investors that accounts would not be reinstated without a review process, Musk has unilaterally allowed dozens of previously banned right-wing accounts back on the platform, all while gutting the content moderation team. Many of the reinstated accounts have pushed COVID-19 and election misinformation and conspiracy theories, and Musk’s interactions with many of these accounts demonstrate his embrace of far-right messaging on the platform. Now, many of these accounts are taking full advantage of Twitter's features to continue peddling the same sort of conspiracy theories and rhetoric that got many of them banned in the first place.
Twitter Spaces are live audio chats that users can host on the platform and other users are able to join in and listen or contribute. While these chats have been a feature of the site since before Musk’s takeover, right-wing users have recently utilized them to thank Musk for letting them back on the site and express how important Twitter Spaces are for their messaging and visibility.
Many of the reinstated accounts active in Twitter Spaces have used the feature to push misinformation and hate. During white nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes’ 24-hour return to Twitter, he hosted a Spaces chat where he expressed his love for Hitler and labeled Twitter “his turf.”
Here are some examples of what these reinstated right-wing users are talking about in Twitter Spaces:
- Conspiracy theorist Mindy Robinson took to Twitter Spaces to baselessly speculate that the Las Vegas government and local media conspired with casinos to cover up key information about the 2017 Route 91 festival shooting. The nearly eight-hour Spaces chat with over 11,000 listeners pushed numerous conspiracy theories about the number of shooters and supposed lack of media coverage.
- COVID-19 misinformation has been a frequent topic, with anti-vaccine figures such as Drs. Robert Malone, Stella Immanuel, and Shiva Ayyadurai using Twitter Spaces to baselessly claim that the government is suppressing previously promoted alternative treatments and “gaslit” individuals over supposed side effects from the vaccine.
- Several Spaces have focused on Donald Trump's 2024 presidential prospects, with one roundtable featuring pro-Trump trolls Laura Loomer, Seb Gorka, and Ian Miles Cheong leading the discussion. Hosts and speakers of some of these Spaces have looked to COVID-19 misinformation and debunked voter fraud lies for discussion points.
- Other Spaces, with Project Veritas and James O’Keefe leading the discussion, were dedicated to fearmongering and theorizing that critical race theory, LGBTQ inclusivity, and other supposedly “woke” ideologies are infiltrating schools and destroying families.
Beyond regular Twitter users, the 977,000 listeners in the 45 Spaces included people with significant national platforms.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) chimed in during a January 26 Space that was hosted by Project Veritas and dedicated solely to pushing COVID-19 misinformation and vaccine skepticism in the wake of the group’s latest sting operation against Pfizer. He also contributed to another chat that was hosted by his communications director and dedicated to pushing speculation about foreign interference in the U.S. intelligence service after the arrest of former FBI agent Charles McGonigal. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) also participated in the chat.
Kari Lake, the failed gubernatorial candidate for Arizona who has become one of most vocal pushers of election misinformation since the 2022 midterms, has also appeared in at least one Space, where she spoke alongside January 6 Capitol rioter Derrick Evans.