X Reinstates More Controversial UK Banned Accounts

X, formerly Twitter, has been criticised for reinstating the accounts of controversial public figures Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins, who were banned in 2018 and 2020 respectively for violating hate speech rules.

The social media platform has reinstated a number of accounts over the past year after owner Elon Musk in November 2022 declared a “general amnesty” to suspended accounts that had “not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam”.

At the same time Musk has removed free API access to the platform for academic researchers, with that and other moves causing the cancellation, suspension or alteration of more than 100 studies examining subjects such as misinformation and hate speech on X, found a new study by the Coalition for Independent Technology Research.

A majority of the researchers surveyed by the coalition said they feared being sued by X after the firm took legal action against the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) earlier this year.

X/Twitter chief executive Linda Yaccarino. Image credit: Comcast

Hate speech ban

Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is the founder and former leader of the far-right English Defence League and was ordered to pay £100,000 in libel damages to a Syrian schoolboy who was filmed being attacked in a schoolyard after making false claims about him.

Hopkins was banned in 2020 for breaking Twitter’s hate speech rules after inciting a backlash for her criticisms of the Black Lives Matter movement and engaging in other online feuds.

In her first post upon being reinstated, Hopkins wrote, “Thank you @elonmusk. And thank you to all the Twitter family who have brought Tommy & I back to @X.”

Since being reinstated Hopkins has a following of more than 900,000, while Robinson has more than 345,000 followers.

‘Misinformation’

Nick Lowles, chief executive of Hope Not Hate, said the reinstatements meant that “Elon Musk is allowing hateful content and misinformation to take place on his watch on X/Twitter”.

“At a time of when extremists on all sides are whipping up fear and hate over the conflict in the Middle East, often on X/Twitter, allowing two of Britain’s most prominent anti-Muslim activists back will only make matters worse,” he said.

“We will be writing to X to make it clear that danger that their content poses.”

X has been approached for comment.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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