Elon Musk’s move to make his new Twitter platform a place where free speech is welcomed have now seen a change to one of its most important policies during the Covid-19 pandemic. The company’s previous policy to screen and band “harmful misinformation” regarding vaccinations and conspiracy theories about the virus has now been dropped, it has emerged.
The move was noticed by Twitter users in a very brief note on the company’s transparency website, offering no explanation on the thought process behind the move. Their message simply reads “Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy”, ironically on the very same page that touts Twitter “helping people find reliable information, connect with others, and follow what’s happening in real time.”
CNN Business estimates that the move would reintroduce 11,000 banned Twitter accounts that broke the rules on Covid and vaccine misinformation. Twitter’s transparency page regarding the topic states that 11,230 accounts were banned for breaking the policy guidelines and since January 2022 nearly 12 million accounts were challenged, with 97,674 worth of content removed in the process.
Musk has pledged that he would turn Twitter into a bastion of free speech and free thinking, however in doing so has drawn the ire of many technology experts and many more long time Twitter users. His plans to allow many banned accounts to return to the platform elicited worries of extremism and right-wing rhetoric being platformed once again while public favour for the SpaceX and Tesla CEO turned even more during a bout of layoffs in October.
Musk also has had a contentious time during the pandemic regarding employment rules in the United States at the height of restrictions. He repeatedly urged the end of the stay-at-home policies, despite public health officials’ insistence at the time that social distancing remained necessary to avoid a wave of infections that could overwhelm hospitals.
“I would call it, ‘forcibly imprisoning people in their homes’ against all their Constitutional rights,” he said during a Tesla earnings call in April 2020. “Breaking people’s freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong and not why people came to America or built this country. It’s an outrage.”
Musk has twice been infected with Covid-19 and is not against vaccinations, however has admitted that his decision not to get vaccinated stems from the fact “I’m not at risk for Covid, nor are my kids.” When confronted on a New York Times podcast that people could die if they didn’t follow public health guidelines, Musk’s response to the interview was simply “everybody dies.”