Update (12/2/22): This piece has been updated to cite data from independent software developer Travis Brown that was used to help identify reinstated accounts.
After single-handedly reinstating nearly a dozen high-profile right-wing users, new Twitter CEO Elon Musk is now broadly granting previously suspended accounts “amnesty.” In the week since this plan was announced, a Media Matters review has found that Musk has reinstated a variety of accounts, including those that post misinformation and amplify right-wing talking points.
Musk gained control of Twitter on October 27 after a tumultuous six-month-long acquisition process. Previously banned users quickly celebrated this purchase, QAnon accounts started rejoining the platform, and Musk interacted with right-wing accounts responsible for bigotry and extremism.
As the new CEO, Musk has already made his mark on the company by laying off half of Twitter’s workforce, announcing COVID-19 misinformation would no longer be removed from the platform (which experts say will harm public health), and reinstating banned accounts. Musk had promised civil rights organizations that the platform would “not allow anyone who was de-platformed for violating Twitter rules back on the platform until we have a clear process for doing so,” yet he reinstated nearly a dozen high-profile right-wing accounts, including that of former President Donald Trump, seemingly without any formal process. Instead, Musk ran an unscientific Twitter poll and reactivated Trump’s account because he claimed “the people have spoken.”
Musk returned to the Twitter poll feature days later to ask his followers if Twitter should “offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts.” Based on the results – with around 72% of the respondents (likely including bots) saying yes – Musk claimed that “amnesty begins next week.” Platformer reported that “since Musk’s poll, Twitter has begun the process of reinstating roughly 62,000 accounts with more than 10,000 followers.”
A Media Matters review of reinstated accounts, including those identified by independent software developer Travis Brown, has found that Musk is reinstating a variety of accounts, including ones dedicated to advancing right-wing talking points and misinformation, as well as accounts that primarily push spam, sexual content, and content related to nonfungible tokens (NFT).
Some of the reinstated accounts have demonstrated their loyalty to the violent QAnon conspiracy theory or are dedicated to attacking Democrats. Other accounts have amplified harmful and baseless misinformation about COVID-19, engaged in right-wing culture wars by sharing Project Veritas tweets or promoting conspiracy theories about the January 6 insurrection, and pushed harmful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. Many reinstated users have also pushed election misinformation or called for Democratic elected officials to be arrested.
Here are some of the accounts pushing bigotry and right-wing misinformation to hundreds of thousands of followers collectively:
E. Michael Jones, an antisemitic radical traditionalist Catholic, thanked Musk for reactivating his account on November 23 and has since used his platform to push dangerous antisemitic rhetoric. He also uses Twitter to usher his more than 30,000 followers over to the far-right platform BitChute, where he posts antisemitic long-form content.
After thanking Musk for reactivating his account, British anti-feminist far-right personality Carl Benjamin, also known as Sargon of Akkad, has used his recent reinstatement to push white nationalist ideology and amplify the far-right message board 4chan to his more than 260,000 followers.
He has also pushed white nationalist ideology to his 144,000 followers, sharing a Daily Mail article about the language demographics in England and Wales and claiming that non-English speakers are causing the “ghettoisation” of the United Kingdom. Vance also attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci, saying, “There is a special place in hell reserved for this man.”
After being reinstated on Twitter, Latinos for Trump co-founder Jorge Herrera returned to his old habits of amplifying right-wing media. This time, he has shared misinformation about the recent midterm elections to his nearly 42,000 followers.
Since being reinstated, Tamara Leigh, MAGA supporter and originator of the Pardon Flynn Now movement, has used her new platform to fundraise for people who were arrested after participating in the January 6 insurrection, amplify dangerous anti-LGBTQ accounts and rhetoric, and share COVID-19 misinformation about the vaccine.