Elon Musk has begun yet another controversial policy change at Twitter: unbanning many of the people that the site once banned.
Even before he bought and took over the company, Mr Musk made clear that one of his main focuses would be on free speech. As part of that, he suggested that previously banned accounts may be allowed back on the platform.
In the time since, he has suggested that he will focus on “freedom of reach” rather than of speech. As such, he intends to limit the amount a certain tweet is shown, but not necessarily ban the accounts that post them.
He has now firmly begun that process, revoking the bans of a number of celebrities. The most controversial is likely to be Donald Trump – though there are plenty more besides.
Over the weekend, he tweeted that he had brought back “Kathie Griffin, Jorden Peterson & Babylon Bee”, misspelling the names of the first two people, and naming the initiative “Freedom Fridays”.
Mr Musk had previously suggested that such moderation decisions would go through a council, who would have the ultimate decision on the reversal of those bans. He is yet to indicate whether the new policy changes did in fact go through that process.
Some of those who have access to their accounts again have refused to come back, including the former president. But others have already made the most of their new status, posting celebratory tweets after coming back online.
Many high-profile banned accounts remain suspended, however. Those include Alex Jones, the controversial TV star – who Mr Musk said he will never allow back on the platform, because of his comments about the deaths of children.
Here are the most high-profile accounts to have been restored so far.
The then-outgoing president was banned from Twitter in January 2021, amid fears he would use it to incite violence. He has struggled to communicate with the public since, though has been posting on an called Truth Social over the last year.
Ever since Mr Musk took over Twitter, there has been speculation that his account would come back. For some time, both the Twitter head and former president remained quiet on that future.
Over the weekend, however, Mr Musk posted a poll, asking users whether the former president’s account should be reinstated. A day later, 51 per cent of votes had been in favour of bringing him back, and so his account began to be revived.
But Mr Trump has not yet posted – and might not do so. He has repeatedly said that he would prefer to stay on Truth Social, presumably in part because he owns it.
The revival of the comedian’s account is notable in part because of how quickly it has been revived – it was less than a month between the ban and her return – and also the fact that she was banned specifically for making fun of Elon Musk.
Her account was suspended earlier this month when she changed her profile picture and name to that of Elon Musk, and posted a number of tweets pretending to be him. Her posts were part of a broader campaign to protest against Mr Musk’s ownership and point out the problems of identity verification on the site.
But Mr Musk quickly banned her, and said that accounts that were impersonating others needed to explicitly specify that they were doing so as a parody. That led him not only to ban Griffin but to change the site’s policy too,.
However, her account is now back online. But like Donald Trump, she does not seem to want to use it, according to a post on Mastodon, a newly popular Twitter alternative.
“Dear Space Karen,” she posted, using a popular mocking nickname for Mr Musk. “No Thanks.”
The academic and writer was banned from Twitter this summer, when he refused to use the correct name for actor Elliot Page. Peterson was sanctioned under Twitter’s hateful policy rules – and posted a long YouTube video in which he said he would have to be killed before he deleted the tweet.
Since then, Mr Musk – who has in the past mocked the idea of using people’s chosen pronouns himself – said that Peterson’s account would be returned. In recent days, it is back online.
Unlike Griffin and Trump, Peterson is one of the new returnees to be making the most of his return to the site. He has posted prolifically in the days since he got his account back, and celebrated with a grateful post to Mr Musk.
— Dr Jordan B Peterson (@jordanbpeterson) November 18, 2022
The Babylon Bee
As in the case of Peterson, the Twitter account of conservative satirical news source The Babylon Bee was originally banned for a transphobic post. It was kicked off the site in March, after it posted tweets that misgendered US assistant secretary of health Rachel Levine.
Mr Musk had discussed the return of the outlet during his preparations to buy the company, as shown in texts that were released as part of court proceedings. On Friday, he said they would return.
It celebrated the return with an apparent reference to Mr Musk’s early days as owner of Twitter, in which he took a sink to the company’s San Francisco offices as part of a joke.
We're back. Let that sink in.
— The Babylon Bee (@TheBabylonBee) November 18, 2022
In the time since, the outlet has been using its account as it did before, posting regular links to its articles.
The controversial YouTube star and kickboxer has also been delighting in having his account back, posting repeatedly in the time since it was returned from suspension.
Tate has proven controversial in recent months, which has led to him being banned from other platforms such as YouTube. But his ban from Twitter is actually much older: it was done in 2017, when he posted that women should “bare some responsibility” for sexual assaults.
The account is now back online, after Mr Musk revived it, though his older posts are not available on it. His first post after the suspension appeared to be celebrating his own return.
Mastery is a funny thing.
It’s almost as if, on a long enough time scale, losing simply isn’t an option.
Such is the way of Wudan. pic.twitter.com/rJkK92hzCd
— Andrew Tate (@Cobratate) November 18, 2022
The rapper and designer’s Twitter account was locked last month, after he sent antisemitic tweets in which he posted that he was going “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE”. His profile has been visible in the time since, though he has not posted.
On Sunday evening, he sent a new tweet apparently indicating that he would be coming back to the platform.
Testing Testing Seeing if my Twitter is unblocked
— ye (@kanyewest) November 20, 2022
Elon Musk responded, seemingly celebrating his return.
Don’t kill what ye hate
Save what ye love
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 20, 2022
West later sent a tweet with only the Hebrew word “shalom”, presumably in reference to that previous antisemitism.