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Monday, December 09, 2019

Study Shows Musk Is Mostly Reinstating Far-Right Twitter Accounts

Elon Musk

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Research contributed by Kayla Gogarty and Audrey McCabe

New Twitter CEO and self-proclaimed “free-speech absolutist” Elon Musk announced that previously suspended accounts would be granted “amnesty” and has since reportedly reinstated over 15,500 accounts, while seemingly suspending some of his critics. As this “amnesty” plan continues to unfold, Media Matters has reviewed 50 recent account reinstatements and found that Musk is favoring right-wing accounts over left-wing ones.

In a new study, Media Matters analyzed independent software developer Travis Brown’s data sets that were released between December 7 and 13 and include recently reinstated Twitter accounts. Narrowing down to the 50 most followed accounts from Brown's data sets, we found that 28 percent of the 50 reinstated accounts have promoted right-wing content.

Following his takeover of Twitter nearly two months ago, Musk has broken promises to civil rights organizations by unilaterally reinstating high-profile right-wing accounts under the guise of free speech. He has also used his own profile to push multiple right-wing conspiracy theories and narratives, and most recently, he plunged into the world of QAnon, tweeting out a reference to the conspiracy theory and launching a known QAnon tactic against a former Twitter employee by accusing them of pedophilia.

As Musk continues the trend of granting previously suspended right-wing accounts “amnesty,” he has baselessly suspended the accounts of multiple journalists who have previously reported on him, as well as the account of a Twitter rival, Mastodon.

Among the 50 reinstated accounts that Media Matters analyzed, 14 accounts, or 28 percent, pushed right-wing content, while only five accounts, or 10 percent, pushed left-wing content. Other accounts reinstated in the same time period included nonpolitical meme accounts, fan accounts, non-English accounts, and other accounts that post NSFW content or seemingly post spam.

The right-wing reinstated accounts have pushed misogynistic and anti-LGBTQ content, peddled COVID-19 misinformation, and engaged in right-wing culture war issues. These are the 14 right-wing reinstated accounts, which collectively have over 3 million followers.

  • RogerJStoneJr, a bigoted conspiracy theorist, is back on Twitter after being banned for threatening journalists and has since promoted right-wing culture war issues to his nearly 315,000 followers and interacted with far-right media figures.
  • LauraLoomer is an anti-Muslim extremist who has used her Twitter reinstatement to hype other extremists and amplify attacks against LGBTQ people for her nearly 270,000 followers.
  • P_McCulloughMD, a COVID-19misinformer whose medical certifications are reportedly in the process of being stripped, is back to push his anti-vaccine agenda on Twitter to his 691,000 followers.
  • Bakedalaska, the online persona of white nationalist Tim Gionet, is using his newly reinstated platform of 123,300 followers to call for white nationalists to be brought back to Twitter and ask if he should “say the n word?”
  • Jerryelprimobau is a user with 67,500 followers who has amplified Musk’s nod to QAnon, as well as right-wing media who have engaged in the culture war.
  • RickMad is a #MAGA account with 43,200 followers that has pushed conspiracy theories, amplified right-wing media, and engaged in right-wing culture war issues.
  • WokeCapital was suspended from Twitter for pushing dangerous anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and has used their reinstatement to push similarly harmful and biogted content to 38,900 followers.
  • DanielLMcAdams has amplified right-wing talking points about Russia’s war in Ukraine and Big Tech, as well as praised the reinstatement of an anti-vaccine doctor’s Twitter account to his 26,400 followers.
  • AmericanHotLips has posted right-wing memes for 23,800 followers, and the account has amplified right-wing talking points about Brittney Griner and attacked LGBTQ people.
  • Girlwriteswhat is an anti-feminist account with 23,000 followers that has praised Musk for bringing back previously suspended accounts who pushed misinformation.
  • Canarymission* is an account with 26,100 followers that has doxxed college students.
  • Jacksonhinklle* is an account with 93,200 followers that was suspended and then soon after reinstated under Musk’s leadership. The account has attacked “wokeism” and Democrats.
  • NetAdvisor* claims to be an “evidence-driven research and investigation” center, which is currently inactive, but has 58,300 followers and has previously undermined vaccines and amplified right-wing media.
  • MeninistTweet currently has over 1 million followers and posted anti-feminist and misogynistic content prior to being suspended.

(Accounts with an asterisk next to them were suspended and subsequently reinstated after Musk gained control of Twitter.)

RESEARCH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM KAYLA GOGARTY & AUDREY MCCABE

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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