Elon Musk said on Wednesday that Twitter will not let anyone who has been banned off the site return until it establishes rules for doing so, which will take at least a few weeks.
That means anybody banned from the site for violating Twitter’s rules for abuse, violence, or election and COVID-related misinformation would be unable to return before next Tuesday’s US midterm elections.
Musk made the vow after announcing in a tweet last week that he had met with a group of civil society groups to discuss “how Twitter will continue to combat hate & harassment & enforce its election integrity policies.”
According to Jessica González, an attorney and co-CEO of the advocacy group Free Press who attended the meeting on Tuesday, many in attendance requested Musk not to reinstate the banned users before of the midterm elections.
The guests, who included NAACP, Anti-Defamation League, and Color of Change officials, also demanded that Twitter establish a transparent mechanism for restoring accounts. Musk has openly stated that he would let former President Donald Trump rejoin the site, though Trump, who frequently promotes his own platform Truth Social, has not specified whether he will return.
According to González, the guests also demanded that Twitter enforce existing election-integrity procedures and encouraged him to hear from a diverse range of people, notably racial minorities and those targeted by hate and harassment campaigns.
“He agreed to all of those things in our conversation, but actions speak louder than words,” González added. “I’ve had several meetings with tech CEOs.” And I’ve been given a lot of empty promises. And Elon Musk, in particular, has demonstrated inconsistency, stating one thing one day and another the next. So we fully intend to hold him responsible for these pledges and more.”
The NAACP, for its part, said in a statement that it had addressed to Musk its concerns about “the violent, life-threatening bigotry and conspiracies that have grown on Twitter” under his watch. The organization referenced a report about an increase in hate speech on Twitter in the hours following Musk’s acquisition, warning failure to act would “endanger human lives and further shred our democracy.” It also stated that any account that spreads election misinformation should be barred from using the site.
“As long as hate, lies, and deception circulate across Twitter, the bird cannot be free,” the charity stated. Musk took over Twitter last week and wrote “the bird is liberated,” a reference to the site’s emblem. In a second letter to Musk on Tuesday, the NAACP, the National Urban League, and the National Action Network expressed concern about the rise of racial and religious intolerance on Twitter and accused the billionaire of unknowingly unleashing “the worst of human nature.”
Musk stated last week that he will not make important decisions regarding the content or restoring banned accounts until a “content moderation council” with varied opinions is formed. On Wednesday, he emphasized that point, saying the council he’s establishing will include “the civil rights community and those who confront hate-fueled violence.”
There was no LGBTQ community representation at Tuesday’s meeting, and Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Musk planned to meet with one. The wealthy Tesla CEO has already stated that he supports transgender persons but has condemned the usage of various pronouns. Musk claimed in a tweet this summer about Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, who was kicked off of his account after making a remark on transgender actor Elliot Page that appeared to violate Twitter’s rules, that the network was “going way too far in squashing dissenting viewpoints.”
According to a GLAAD spokesman, the organization is still in contact with Twitter and expects to continue to give comments and research about LGBTQ safety on the site, as it does with every other major platform.
Twitter and other social media sites have long been rife with misinformation about voting, elections, and the COVID-19 vaccine. For the 2022 midterm elections, the platform is keeping its misinformation labels and seeking to rebut misinformation-containing tweets with links to solid information.
González said the organization reminded Musk, who posted and deleted an article over the weekend that made false allegations about the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, that he needed to set the tone for what he expects on the platform.
Some of the groups in the meeting were part of a coalition that delivered an open letter to key Twitter advertisers on Tuesday, urging them to pledge to halt advertising on the platform if Musk violates community standards and kills content management. Musk stated last week in an open letter to advertisers, Twitter’s key source of revenue, that he would not allow the platform to become a “free-for-all hellscape” in his effort to encourage free speech.
Meanwhile, David Cruz, the national director of The League of United Latin American Citizens, stated that Sindy Benavides, who appeared to represent the Hispanic civil rights organization at the conference, was not a member of the organization. Cruz described Benavides as a “rogue, former respected leader who has opted to set herself above the institution that trusted her” in an email.