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Elon Musk says Twitter Shadowbans are the new law of the land

Image of Elon Musk surrounded by blue ticks

Elon Musk is now Twitter’s judge, jury and executioner – with full leeway to enact his version of “free speech” on the flailing platform.
Picture: Gizmodo

Things are really getting out of hand on Twitter, as Elon Musk pushes ahead in a hostile takeover that looks set to secure he is finally the only one left on the social media platform. In the latest set of deeply confusing statements from the multi-CEO and “Chief Twit,” Musk reinstated Twitter accounts for the right-wing “parody” outlet The Babylon Bee, Jordan Petersonand Kathy Griffin.

Musk announced the reinstatements after a cryptic post just say “Freedom Fridays”. He also paired the news with a confusing explanation of how content moderation on Twitter will supposedly work going forward. “New Twitter policy is free speech but not reach,” he wrote. “Negative/hate tweets will be maxed out and demonetized, so no ads or other revenue for Twitter.”

Note: The tweet below misspells Kathy Griffin’s name.

Screenshot of tweets

Musk did not disavow Donald Trump, writing a “decision has not yet been made” on whether or not to allow the former chief poster back on the site. He also said he would not allow conspiracy theorist Alex Jones back on the platform, in another tweet exchange. Although, like all of Musk’s promises – who knows how long that will last.

The sudden reversal of the Twitter ban begs the question: What happened to Musk’s previously announced plan to deal with reposts? Less than a month ago, the world’s richest man tweeted that under his leadership Twitter would form and trust a “content moderation council”. “No major content decisions or account reinstatements will occur until that council convenes,” he wrote in a post from October 28.

Screenshot of Twitter

Nevertheless, Freedom Friday apparently passed without such advice in place. And it’s entirely possible that there simply aren’t enough employees left at Twitter to create one. The first layoffs were reduced 50% of the companyand more engineers and execs have fled since.

Among other questions that Gizmodo had related to Friday’s announcement:

  • What is a “negative tweet?”
  • Who decides that?
  • Who (or what algorithm) will monitor these “negative tweets” to “amplify” them – and how?
  • Will there be an official shadow lane council?

Gizmodo isn’t sure exactly how single tweets can be “demonetized” either. Twitter does not make money directly from individual tweets, but paid posts from advertisers (and, uh, Twitter Blue subscribers). Unless Musk is talking about banning offensive ads (which presumably aren’t allowed already), this is apparently just word salad, devoid of any actual functional policy change.

Unfortunately, while Gizmodo has reached out to Twitter’s press account with all of the above questions, we don’t expect to hear back. Since Musk’s purchase of the company was completed, Twitter has not responded to our press inquiries. Press contacts from other companies run by Musk, such as SpaceX and Teslaare also notoriously difficult for the media to reach.

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