The Twitter headlines don't show signs of abating any time soon under Elon Musk's rule, as the platform reinstates controversial figures Kanye West, and former President Donald Trump, to the service.
Both had previously been removed from Twitter for breaking the platform's rules, and publishing offensive content. Now though, it seems all that is forgiven and forgotten.
Twitter has been in turmoil since Musk's $44 billion takeover – the return of these two controversial public figures is unlikely to help.
Trump Back on Twitter
Donald Trump constantly lived on the edge on Twitter, repeatedly making statements that appeared to be untrue and without citing sources. At the time, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was reluctant to remove him, even reflecting later on that “I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump from Twitter.”
However, despite constant warnings of action against his account, and the addition of fact checking boxes to many of Trump's tweets that disputed his claims, the events of January 6th 2021 proved to be the final straw. As Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, he posted several Tweets that were perceived by Twitter as inciting violence and endangering public safety, and since then, his account has been blocked.
Now, almost two years on, Trump's account has been reopened, after Musk put up a poll asking if he should be allowed back on the platform. It was a close result, with 52% voting yes, against 48% voting no.
“The people have spoken.” – Musk Tweet about Trump's reinstatement
It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise – Musk was always insistent that he would bring Trump back if he purchased Twitter. However, with Trump fully invested in his own social platform, Truth Social, it remains to see if he will want to come back. There's every chance he will shun his 87 million followers on Twitter, or at the very least, try to convince them to move over to Truth Social, as he makes his presidential bid.
Kanye West Also Returns to Twitter
An equally controversial figure, Kanye West's suspension from Twitter has been in place since last month, after the rapper made several anti-Semitic statements that saw him lose several high profile contracts from the likes of Adidas, Foot Locker and Gap.
Musk is insistent that the return of West was done without his knowledge, but the CEO did respond to his first Tweet back on the platform.
Don’t kill what ye hate
Save what ye love
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 20, 2022
The return of West and Trump will do little to put those at ease who fear Musk's approach free speech on the platform will see an increase in hate speech and attacks on the marginalized. One study shows that after Musk's takeover of Twitter, the use of hate speech terms rapidly increased.
With reports that the contractors who handled content moderation at Twitter have been fired, and an ever dwindling workforce, it's difficult to see who, if anyone, will be flagging offensive messages. Or could this simply be part of Musk's plan to stop Twitter becoming, in his own words, “too woke.”
Turmoil at Twitter
It may have been less than a month since Musk took over Twitter, but their has been enough news to fill a years worth of headlines, with very little of it good. The biggest upset at the platform has been the firing of half the workforce, with Musk cutting over 3,250 roles at the company shortly after becoming CEO, in a cost-cutting exercise.
Last week, the CEO gave workers the ultimatum that to remain at Twitter they had to commit to being “hardcore”, and that anyone who didn't sign up to his vision would be let go. It seems many staff called his bluff, with reports of over 1,200 employees deciding to walk away. On Friday, Twitter actually closed its doors and told staff not to return until Monday.
Trump and Kanye are good company for Musk, all of them capable of generating headlines through their behavior, rarely for the better. Pre-Musk, the return of high profile banned accounts would have been seen as controversial for the platform, but today, it's just another minor update for a company that is struggling to keep its head above the water.