08/12/2022

Civil rights leaders condemn Musk decision to lift Trump Twitter ban

Trump advisor Steve Bannon (L) watches as President Donald Trump greets Elon Musk, SpaceX and Tesla CEO, before a policy and strategy forum with executives in the State Dining Room of the White House February 3, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

Civil rights leaders swiftly condemned Twitter owner Elon Musk’s decision to lift former U.S. President Donald Trump’s ban from the platform, accusing the Tesla and SpaceX CEO of breaking commitments he gave them just weeks earlier when he first took over the platform.

“In Elon Musk’s Twittersphere, you can incite an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which led to the deaths of multiple people, and still be allowed to spew hate speech and violent conspiracies on his platform,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “Any advertiser still funding Twitter should immediately pause all advertising. If Elon Musk continues to run Twitter like this, using garbage polls that do not represent the American people and the needs of our democracy, God help us all.”

Musk allowed Trump back on the platform on Saturday after conducting a poll asking whether to let the former president back. Trump was permanently expelled from Twitter under its previous management in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers worked to certify now-President Joe Biden’s election victory. Twitter leadership at the time feared Trump’s continued presence on the platform could lead to further incitement of violence as he continued to falsely claim the election was stolen from him.

Musk’s use of the Twitter poll to determine Trump’s fate on the platform surprised many users since the billionaire had said just weeks earlier that he would form a content moderation council to make major policy decisions and decide whether to reinstate banned accounts.

Earlier this month, Musk had a call with civil rights leaders from groups including the NAACP, Anti-Defamation League, Free Press and Color of Change to discuss concerns over content moderation on the platform. Musk had also been working to reassure advertisers that the platform would not become a “free-for-all-hellscape.”

But shortly after the meeting with civil rights leaders, some of those same groups called for advertisers to halt spending on Twitter, saying mass layoffs at the platform betrayed Musk’s commitments to making the platform safe for users.

After Musk’s decision to re-platform Trump, many of those groups doubled down on their calls.

“Unless and until Musk can be trusted to enforce Twitter’s prior community standards, the platform is not safe for users or advertisers,” the #StopToxicTwitter coalition led by Accountable Tech, Free Press and Media Matters for America said in a statement. “For those still advertising on Twitter right now: know that you are contributing directly to an erratic billionaire’s decimation of Twitter and its rapid devolution into utter chaos.”  

“In less than three weeks Musk has gone back on every promise he made to civil-rights leaders and advertisers,” Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. González said in a statement. “Musk either changed his mind or lied to civil-rights leaders and advertisers. Either way, Musk has proven himself not to be a man of his word.”

Twitter and Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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