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Elon Musk announces plan to remove 1.5 billion Twitter accounts

By Sarah May
|
December 13, 2022

Fulfilling a promise he made back in November, Twitter CEO Elon Musk has declared his intention to delete upwards of 1.5 billion accounts from the social media platform as well as to bolster the site with some new features designed to enhance user experiences, as Fox Business reports.

The notion of the mass account deletion was initially raised with Musk earlier this fall by Twitter user and media personality Goose Wayne in a direct message to which the billionaire entrepreneur succinctly replied, “That's coming.”

Dormant deletions

As Fox Business noted, the purpose of the large-scale culling of accounts was to free up usernames already claimed by individuals who have long since allowed their accounts to go dormant.

Doing so, proponents of the move suggest, would allow new users to access what one platform commentator described as “excellent Twitter handles.”

Though Wayne had suggested a dormant account look-back period of 15 years, in late October, Musk appeared to signal an openness to nixing accounts that have been inactive for as little as one year.

Last week, Musk made his stance on the question official, posting, “Twitter will soon start freeing the name space of 1.5 billion accounts,” adding, “[t]hese are obvious account deletions with no tweets & no log in for years.”

In addition, Musk noted that Twitter would soon unveil a new feature permitting platform users to see how many people have read or interacted with their posts, saying, “Tweets will show view counts in a few weeks, just like videos do. Twitter is much more alive than people think.”

Revelations continue

The anticipated changes come amid blockbuster revelations from ongoing releases of internal Twitter documents from before Musk took control, dubbed the “Twitter Files.”

Turned over by Musk to journalists Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss, the materials that have been publicized to date paint a disturbing picture of the company's censorship culture, which inured primarily to the benefit of the political left.

From deliberations regarding whether and how to block dissemination of the Hunter Biden laptop story prior to the 2020 presidential election to its decision to ban then-President Donald Trump from the platform, each installment depicts an enterprise seemingly committed to standing in the way of any speech viewed as threatening to Democrats and their allies.

As Fox News notes, the fifth tranche of materials, released on Monday, indicates that a number of Twitter staffers were not convinced that Trump's conduct on the platform constituted a violation of company policy, even though that was what executives claimed at the time.

Introducing the latest batch of files, Weiss explained, “For years, Twitter had resisted calls both internal and external to ban Trump on the grounds that blocking a world leader from the platform or removing their controversial tweets would hide important information that people should be able to see and debate. But after January 6...pressure grew, both inside and outside of Twitter, to ban Trump.”

“Existential” corporate threat

Not only has Musk committed to introducing features likely to make Twitter a more enjoyable – and indeed valuable – resource for users, but he also has, in the estimation of legal scholar Jonathan Turley, turned an unflattering spotlight on the censorship motive that held sway over the social media giant for years.

Writing for The Hill, Turley noted that the “Twitter Files” seen thus far “shatter past denials of 'shadow banning' and other suppression techniques targeting disfavored viewpoints, and, according to Turley, “[t]he legal ramifications will become clearer as more information emerges. Yet a far more significant problem is already confirmed in these files: the existential threat of corporate censors to free speech.”

Pointing to last week's discovery that high-ranking Twitter officials in the pre-Musk era had been meeting with FBI, Homeland Security, and national intelligence officials on a weekly basis to tackle so-called “misinformation,” Turley aptly observed, “[y]ou don't need a state ministry of information if the media voluntarily maintains official narratives and suppresses dissenting views.”

Turley added, “[w]hat emerges from these files is the notion of an effective state media in America – an alliance of media, business and political figures who act not out of government compulsion, but out of personal conviction.”

Engineering a “reckoning”

In the end, Turley may be correct in his assertion that “Musk seems to be forcing a reckoning that few in Washington relish – and one which the media can't continue to ignore...[p]olitical and media figures will be forced to dispense with any pretense of support for free speech in defending censorship, election manipulation, blacklisting and shadow banning.”

Indeed, as Musk persists in his transformation of Twitter and also in his bold determination to expose the corrupt machinations of the tech giant over the past several years, more and more Americans may come to share the opinion of Fox News host Mark Levin who just declared the mercurial CEO “a great hero” who, unlike so many others, “put his money where his mouth is.”