You may have crossed the line by tweeting a swastika covered in a Star of David, but you can’t blame other Nazi apologists for getting mixed signals.
On Thursday night, Musk personally intervened after the artist formerly known as Kanye West shared the symbol. “I tried my best,” Musk tweeted in response to the tweet that raised the alarm about West’s behavior. “Nevertheless, he again violated our rule against incitement to violence. The account will be suspended.”
On Truth Social, West shared a screenshot showing that he was only suspended from Twitter for 12 hours — a relatively mild punishment. But West’s account was still blocked as of 1:00 PM PT Friday.
Hours before he was suspended, West openly presented his anti-Semitic beliefs in an interview with Alex Jones. West appeared on the show wearing a full mask and praised Hitler, repeatedly proclaimed his “love” for the Nazis and doubled down when a visibly uncomfortable Jones gave him a chance to backtrack.
As Nazi-related hashtags take over Twitter’s trending topics, notorious neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin reappeared on the site as well, who tweeted from a new address associated with an account he banned back in 2015. Anglin, who created the white supremacist website The Daily Stormer, took a dig at Musk’s new Twitter rules in response. “You caught a 12 hour ban for tweeting a Star of David with a swastika in it… Whatever the rules are, people will follow them. We just need to know what the rules are.”
Anglin was deplatformed from the wider internet when, in 2017, companies providing The Daily Stormer’s web hosting, DDoS protection and other utilities discontinued their services. This push against the site, which is named after a Nazi propaganda newspaper, comes after the right-wing Unite rally in Charlottesville raised alarm over the rising tide of open white supremacy in the US. In a speech he wrote and read aloud at the rally (Anglin was not present), Anglin warned that he and his supporters would soon be “digging graves” and called for the death of “the enemies of the white race.”
Anglin’s fans quickly welcomed him back to the platform. One account, with an obvious reference to white supremacy, tweeted that he was applying for a job. Other neo-Nazi and white supremacist reports criticized Musk’s actions against West, calling them an unexpected betrayal.
Richard Spencer also benefits from Musk’s changes on Twitter. Spencer, a Unite the Right organizer and outspoken white nationalist who greeted fans with a Nazi salute, is now a verified Twitter user who pays a monthly subscription to Twitter Blue. Spencer is currently promoting Twitter Space, proclaiming “Ye-ism triumphant.”
Twitter’s pre-Musk anti-hateful behavior policy is still live online, but the company’s new owner seems to be mostly defending it lately. Last week, Musk conducted a poll of his Twitter followers and later announced an “amnesty” for all accounts that “did not break the law or engage in rude spam.” The decision left potentially thousands of accounts that previously violated Twitter’s anti-hate and anti-harassment policies to be reinstated to the platform.
Musk’s one-man approach to content moderation is unlikely to succeed. The Tesla billionaire and SpaceX CEO slashed Twitter’s moderation teams when he took over the company last month. It also lost Twitter’s global head of trust and security, Yoel Roth, who helped steer the company through many of the toughest policy decisions in recent years. “One of my limitations was if Twitter starts to be ruled by a dictatorial edict and not a policy … there’s no longer a need for me in my role to do what I’m doing,” Roth said in his first interview since leaving this week.
Despite his early promises of a policymaking council, Musk has so far relied on unscientific Twitter polls biased toward his supporters to set the platform’s rules. According to ADL research, white supremacists and other extremists saw the opportunity and encouraged their supporters to vote in Musk’s “amnesty” poll on Telegram.
One Telegram channel with thousands of followers warned members planning to return to Twitter: “Refrain from blatant insults; don’t make it easy for them.”