Elon Musk Says Twitter Shadowbans Are the New Law of the Land

Image of Elon Musk surrounded by blue checkmarks
Image of Elon Musk surrounded by blue checkmarks

Elon Musk is now Twitter’s judge, jury, and executioner—with complete leeway to enact his version of “free speech” on the flailing platform.

Things are really going off the rails at Twitter, as Elon Musk pushes forward in a hostile takeover that seems liable to ensure he’s eventually the only one left at the social media platform. In the latest set of deeply confusing declarations from the multi-CEO and “Chief Twit,” Musk reinstated Twitter accounts for the right-wing “parody” outlet the Babylon Bee, Jordan Peterson, and Kathy Griffin.

Musk announced the reinstatements after a cryptic post simply saying “Freedom Fridays.” He also paired the news with a confusing explanation of how content moderation on Twitter will supposedly operate moving forward. “New Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach,” he wrote. “Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter.”

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Note: the below Tweet misspells Kathy Griffin’s name.

Screenshot of tweets
Screenshot of tweets

Literally, what does this mean?

Musk didn’t un-ban Donald Trump, writing a “decision has not yet been made” about whether or not to allow the former poster-in-chief back on the site. He also said he would not allow conspiracy theorist Alex Jones back on the platform, in another tweet exchange. Though, like all of Musk’s promises—who knows how long it will last.

The sudden Twitter ban reversals beg the question: What happened to Musk’s previously announced plan to tackle reinstatements? Less than a month ago, the world’s richest man tweeted that, under his leadership, Twitter would form and rely on a “content moderation council.” “No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes,” he wrote in an Oct. 28 post.

Screenshot of Twitter
Screenshot of Twitter

Amazing how quickly this idea seems to have fallen apart.

Yet seemingly, Freedom Friday went ahead with no such council in place. And it’s abundantly possible that there simply aren’t enough staff left at Twitter to compose one. Initial layoffs slashed about 50% of the company, and more engineers and execs have fled since.

Among other questions that Gizmodo had related to Friday’s announcement:

  • What is a “negative tweet?”

  • Who decides that?

  • Who (or what algorithm) will be monitoring for these “negative tweets” to “deboost” them—and how?

  • Will there be an official shadowban council?

Gizmodo also isn’t sure, exactly, how single tweets can be “demonetized.” Twitter does not make money directly off of individual tweets, but rather paid posts by advertisers (and, uh, Twitter Blue subscribers). Unless Musk is talking about disallowing offensive ads (which presumably already aren’t allowed), this is seemingly just word salad, devoid of any actual functional policy shift.

Unfortunately, though Gizmodo has reached out with all of the above questions to Twitter’s press account, we do not expect to receive a response. Since Musk’s purchase of the company was finalized, Twitter has not been responding to our press inquiries. Press contacts from other companies run by Musk, like SpaceX and Tesla, are also notoriously difficult for media to reach.

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