In an indication of the type of changes that Elon Musk could bring to Twitter, a right-wing extremist who was banned from the platform over his apparent efforts to incite deadly violence against a now-former Black Lives Matter (BLM) leader is expecting to have his account restored once the multi-billion dollar deal for the social media app is finalized.
Upon learning that Musk’s $44 billion bid for Twitter had been accepted, Charles C. Johnson — an ultra-conservative with a history of making decidedly anti-Black statements that contributed to his banishment from the social media app — reached out to the “head of the billionaire’s personal investment office” to find out when he could start tweeting again, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
“When do I get my Twitter account back?” Johnson asked Jared Birchall, who responded: “Hopefully soon.”
Johnson, who has also been described as “a Holocaust denier,” separately told the Journal that he was “over Twitter,” suggesting his reported interest in regaining access to his banned account was overstated.
But he is also the same person who denied he wanted Deray Mckesson dead despite encouraging his followers in 2015 to help him in “taking out” the prominent BLM activist at the time.
But the report lends credence to fears that Musk will reactivate other Twitter accounts that were banned for similar reasons, including and especially former President Donald Trump’s. Twitter obviously didn’t believe him and suspended his account for violating the platform’s “abuse and harassment” policies before it finally banned him for good.
Coupled with Johnson’s history of using social media in an attempt to criminalize Michael Brown after the teenager was shot in Ferguson, Missouri — as well as other incidiary words and actions documented by Slate — Mckesson said he legitimately feared for his life following Johnson’s apparent call to action on Twitter.
Twitter likely had no choice but to silence the right-wing troll — actions that Musk has previously decried as a violation of free speech.
Taken in their totality, Musk’s attitude toward freedom of speech and Twitter coupled with the Wall Street Journal report likely only bolstered fears that the social media platform’s sale would pave the way for other banned accounts to be restored. That especially includes the one that used to be controlled by Trump, who was notably kicked off the social media platform last year following his efforts to incite violence while trying to disingenuously overturn the 2020 election by promoting false conspiracy theories of election fraud.
Notably, the Wall Street Journal article reported that “Musk remains dismayed that former President Donald Trump is still barred from the platform.”
Beyond suspicions of Musk reactivating accounts banned for inciting hate and violence, there are fears of those accounts contributing to the already rampant spread of misinformation that is not just isolated to Twitter, especially in the months ahead of the upcoming midterm elections.
The sale of Twitter to Musk also renewed calls from civil-society groups for big tech to address those ongoing issues in social media platform accountability and “fix the feed” to stop amplifying hate and lies.
“Elon Musk, from two weeks ago, and from even before that, has been very clear about the ways in which he sees content moderation and wants Twitter specifically to be a different place,” Jelani Drew-Davi, director of campaigns for Kairos, recently told NewsOne. “It’s really clear that he is intending to rollback content moderation policies, under the veil and guise of free speech, which ultimately will just lead to more disinformation and more hateful content on the platform that does affect black and brown people, LGBT folks and women more often and deeper than it does anybody else.”