Now that Elon Musk has taken over Twitter Inc., users are waiting to see if the billionaire’s distaste for lifetime bans means that high-profile personalities who were blocked from the site will be allowed back on.
Twitter says it will take down posts that are abusive, violent or obscene or that infringe on trademarks, impersonate someone or are spam. It also labels tweets that might contain misinformation. The company says it can permanently ban members that violate the rules “in a particularly egregious way” or have repeated broken its policies.
Musk, who describes himself as a free-speech advocate, is likely to get rid of permanent bans, a person familiar with the matter has said. That could potentially open the door to reinstating some of the accounts that have been blocked, such as former US President Donald Trump, though it’s unclear if anything will happen in the near term.
Still, Musk has also said, in a letter to reassure advertisers, that it’s not in the company’s interest to become a “free-for-all hellscape.” A representative for Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Here are some of the people serving lifetime bans now and one account that’s back.
The former US president was banned in January 2021 after a mob stormed the Capitol building in Washington. Twitter said posts from the @realDonaldTrump account and the reaction people had to them risked inciting violence. Trump has established his own platform since then called Truth Social, and vowed in an interview on CNBC that he wouldn’t return to Twitter if the block was lifted.
Marjorie Taylor Greene
House Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican congresswoman from Georgia, had her personal account suspended in January, but is still allowed to post from her government profile.
She posted there on Thursday tweeting “FREEDOM OF SPEECH!!!!” and “Just wait until tomorrow” ahead of the deadline for Musk to complete the deal.
An account associated with Steve Bannon, a former Trump adviser, was banned in November 2020. On a video from his podcast that was posted to social media, Bannon called for putting the heads of Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray “on pikes.”
Twitter said at the time that the post violated its policy on the glorification of violence.
Talk show host Alex Jones was permanently suspended in 2018 for violating its abusive behavior policy. Twitter didn’t specify which posts violated its policy at the time. Jones has come under fire for spreading lies that the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, which left several children dead, was a hoax.
A Connecticut jury has ruled that Jones must pay $965 million in damages to the children’s families and an FBI agent who were victimized by the broadcasts, which Jones used to sell dietary supplements and survival gear. Some of the families said they were stalked and harassed online and in person by Jones’ followers. Jones’ lawyer says he will appeal and has suggested that the families were exaggerating their suffering.
Founder of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson, was banned for hateful conduct in 2018. According to a report in the Guardian newspaper at the time, Robinson said that he was told he’d been blocked for posting hate speech about Islam.
British far-right political commentator Katie Hopkins was also banned for hateful conduct on the site in June 2020. Twitter found that Hopkins, who had more than 1 million followers at the time, had broken its hateful conduct policy, according to a BBC report. She’s still active on other sites and her YouTube channel has more than 240,000 subscribers.
Satire website the Babylon Bee, which used Twitter to take aim at trans people, Democrats and Planned Parenthood, was suspended in March and appears to be back online. Seth Dillon, the chief executive officer, said in April that Musk had reached out to the company to confirm it had been suspended from Twitter prior to his poll on free speech. BQ Prime