New Twitter owner Elon Musk has announced people who have been banned from the social media site will not be reinstated until a review by a “content moderation council”.
It appears to mean no immediate return to Twitter for several high-profile and polarising figures who had been previously banned, including former US president Donald Trump.
Writing on Twitter on Friday evening, Mr Musk said: “Twitter will be forming a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints.
“No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes.”
Twitter will be forming a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints.
No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 28, 2022
It had been reported that Musk, the world’s richest man, plans to take on the role of chief executive at Twitter after completing his acquisition of the platform and abolish permanent bans on users.
Mr Musk will replace Parag Agrawal, who was one of several senior executives to be ousted as the takeover was completed but may eventually cede the role in the longer term, according to a report from Bloomberg.
It will create the most headlines and it will make a statement to the world, Twitter users and everyone else that he has arrived and he is in charge
Matt Navarra, Social media expert
On Friday, Mr Trump posted to his own Truth Social platform that he was “very happy Twitter is now in sane hands” but did not comment on any possible return, but instead praised his own app, which was launched after his Twitter ban.
Mr Musk appeared to celebrate that his protracted takeover of the social media giant had been completed by tweeting shortly before 5am UK time on Friday: “the bird is freed”, in reference to Twitter’s bird logo.
A US court had set a deadline of Friday for the Tesla and SpaceX boss to complete his 44 billion dollar (£38 billion) acquisition of the platform.
Twitter has not yet published any further statement confirming the deal, but several senior figures and board members, including Bret Taylor, who had served as the company’s chairman, have changed their social media profiles to reflect that they no longer work for the company.
Many people have raised concerns over some of Mr Musk’s proposals for a Twitter platform under his management, most notably his stance as a “free speech absolutist” who would allow any content which was not illegal to remain on the site.
This approach would likely clash with upcoming proposed regulation for the tech sector, including the UK’s Online Safety Bill, which will require the biggest platforms to not only remove illegal content, but also to take action against “legal but harmful” material that has been designated a priority and a threat to user safety.
Meanwhile, many users have threatened to quit Twitter if content moderation is loosened.
There have also been reports that many staff plan to leave the company in the wake of the takeover and some security campaigners have warned that Twitter could become an easy target for hackers in the aftermath of the deal and as Mr Musk restructures the firm.
And I think it feels like a very Elon Musk thing to do - so I think that’s probably the most likely big change that we’ll see early on
Matt Navarra, Social media expert
But the billionaire has already made some moves in an effort to calm these fears. On Thursday, he posted a statement aimed at Twitter’s advertisers where he said he was acquiring the platform because he believed it was important to have a space where “a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner”.
He added that “Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences”.
“In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all, where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences,” he said.
Social media expert Matt Navarra said he was not surprised by the reports and said the reversal of permanent bans to allow “some of the most polarising, controversial, trouble-making accounts” back on to Twitter was the “most likely” big change to make early in Mr Musk’s tenure.
“The likelihood is that we will see someone like Donald Trump or Kanye West back on the platform fairly swiftly,” he told the PA news agency.
“The reason why I think that is because it’s fairly easy to do – it doesn’t require any changing of code or building new products or features, so I think it’s quite likely that he’ll do that.
“It will create the most headlines and it will make a statement to the world, Twitter users and everyone else that he has arrived and he is in charge.
“And I think it feels like a very Elon Musk thing to do – so I think that’s probably the most likely big change that we’ll see early on.”
As part of his other plans for the site, Mr Musk has also spoken of removing all spam and bot accounts from and using Twitter as part of a so-called “everything app” called X, where users are able to access a wide range of services in one place.
That is similar to WeChat in China, where users are able to access social media, online shopping and money transfer, taxi hire, restaurant booking and more from within one app.