Technology

Elon Musk reactivates Alex Jones' X account after a five-year ban


C.E.O. of Tesla, Chief Engineer of SpaceX and C.T.O. of X Elon Musk takes the stage during the New York Times annual DealBook summit on November 29, 2023 in New York City. 

Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

Elon Musk on Sunday reinstated the account of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on X, formerly Twitter, reneging on a year-ago vow to keep Jones off the social network.

Jones was previously suspended from Twitter in 2018 for violating the company’s “abusive behavior policy.” That suspension, deemed permanent under the company’s prior management, came as Jones faced a defamation lawsuit for spreading the false claim that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax.

Musk’s decision to bring Jones back to X comes on the anniversary week of the Sandy Hook shooting.

Although 20 children and six educators were killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, Jones had falsely and repeatedly said on his show, Infowars, that the shooting never really happened, and was a staged event designed to bring about stricter gun laws.

Infowars still appeared to be banned from X as of Sunday.

Believers in Jones’ conspiracies would go on to harass and threaten bereft family members, in some cases physically confronting and accusing grieving parents of being crisis actors whose children had never existed, according to reports by the Associated Press. Some of those targeted had to move from their homes multiple times and could not safely visit the graves of their loved ones.

Sandy Hook victims’ relatives sued Jones in Texas and Connecticut, winning a nearly $1.5 billion judgment against him. Jones sought but did not receive personal bankruptcy protection to try to avoid paying more than $1 billion of that judgment.

Users of the Elon Musk-led X social media platform had anticipated the reinstatement of Jones since at least Thursday, when Musk said he would consider reinstating Jones.

“Since this platform aspires to be the global town square, permanent bans should be extremely rare,” Musk wrote in a Thursday post.

Musk confirmed the reinstatement on Sunday after launching a poll on X that garnered nearly 2 million votes, over half of which favored reinstating Jones.

Musk said Jones “cannot break the law,” but that if he does spread misinformation, X’s community notes feature will correct him.

Jones’ first activity on the platform in over five years was to repost a welcome-back message from Andrew Tate — an influencer known for spouting misogynistic views online and awaiting trial for charges of rape, human trafficking and forming a criminal gang to sexually exploit women in Romania. (Tate has sued the accusers who made those charges.) X has allowed Tate to monetize his account and Tate has said that he generated tens of thousands of dollars on X, previously.

While Musk — who is also CEO of Tesla and SpaceX — bills himself as a free speech defender, he has wielded his control of the X platform to suspend the accounts of perceived enemies and vocal critics there. For example, X suspended the accounts of software developer Travis Brown, a same-day private jet tracker account built by Jack Sweeney, and Aaron Greenspan, the founder of legal and public records database PlainSite.

Under Musk’s management, X has also sued a progressive watchdog group, Media Matters for America, and one of its staff members alleging defamation. The suit followed an investigative report MMfA published that said blatantly Nazi content ran on the social network alongside ads from mainstream brands there.

Musk has faced a backlash for changes he’s made at Twitter since taking over the platform in late October 2022, including the widespread reversal of account suspensions. He famously reversed the suspension of former President Donald Trump.

In recent weeks, many major advertisers suspended their campaigns on X after Musk promoted what the White House called “antisemitic and racist hate” on the site. Musk would go on to tell those advertisers to “go f**k yourselves,” and “don’t advertise,” from the stage of the 2023 DealBook Summit in New York.





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