In Reinstating Trump, Musk Breaks Promises He Made to Civil-Rights Leaders and Advertisers
LOS ANGELES — On Saturday, Twitter owner Elon Musk reinstated the account of Donald Trump. The platform had banned the former president in early 2021, after Trump had repeatedly violated its community standards, including posting content that incited violence during the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Earlier this month, Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. González met with Musk, alongside leaders of ADL, the Asian American Foundation, Color Of Change and the NAACP. During the meeting, Musk pledged to:
- not allow anyone who was deplatformed for violating Twitter's rules back on the platform until Twitter had a clear process for doing so;
- combat hate and harassment and enforce Twitter's election-integrity policies; and
- create a new content-moderation council including the civil-rights community and groups who face hate-fueled violence.
He invited meeting participants to join the content-moderation council, but never followed up. In an earlier attempt to placate advertisers, Musk had promised that members of the council would have “widely diverse viewpoints” and that no “major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes.” None of these actions was taken prior to his decision to reinstate Trump.
“In less than three weeks, Musk has gone back on every promise he made to civil-rights leaders and advertisers. He laid off the majority of Twitter's workforce in charge of enforcing anti-hate and harassment and election-integrity policies. He drastically changed a major policy banning hate speech to a vague rule where hateful tweets can remain on the site, but supposedly won't be amplified or monetized.
“Musk's reinstatement of Trump's account involved no clear process, but relied on the results of a flimsy Twitter poll, asking Musk’s followers to decide the former president's fate. Musk took this careless decision without convening the new council he promised to protect Twitter users from hate and disinformation and keep advertisers from exiting the platform. As far as I can tell this new council doesn't exist. It’s just one of the many bad-faith promises Musk has made civil-rights leaders and then tossed aside.
“Before being banned, Trump repeatedly violated Twitter's rules. He spread the Big Lie about the 2020 election, spread COVID-19 disinformation and attacked the media and anyone who disagreed with him. He tweeted incitements that spurred his followers to attack the Capitol on January 6. Basic fairness would dictate that Trump play by the same rules as the rest of us. Yet it appears that fairness is not remotely on Musk's agenda, even though he assured us that it was.
“Musk either changed his mind or lied to civil-rights leaders and advertisers. Either way, Musk has proven that he is not a man of his word. He is a reckless and erratic billionaire who puts his whims ahead of concerns for the welfare of the online community. Any remaining advertiser that cares about brand safety should join the exodus of major companies that have already pulled their ads off Twitter.
“But it's not just advertisers and Twitter's revenues that Musk’s bad-faith gestures have put at risk. It's communities of color, political dissidents and other threatened groups and individuals that are too often on the receiving end of hate from Trump and authoritarians and white supremacists like him. Musk’s willingness to betray civil-rights leaders is a sure sign that Twitter’s hellscape is already here.”