While claiming to have bought the social media giant in order to make it "an inclusive arena for free speech," multibillionaire Twitter owner Elon Musk is apparently overseeing what critics claim is a purge of anti-fascist voices, The Intercept reported Tuesday.
"Several prominent anti-fascist organizers and journalists have had their accounts suspended in the past week, after right-wing operatives appealed directly to Musk to ban them and far-right internet trolls flooded Twitter's complaints system with false reports about terms of service violations," The Intercept's Robert Mackey and Micah Lee wrote.
Among the suspended Twitter accounts are those of journalist Vishal Pratap Singh, who covers far-right protests in California; the Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club, which provides security for LGBTQ+ events in Texas; the anarchist collective CrimethInc; and anti-fascist researcher Chad Loder.
"What I believe happened is that I and other accounts have been mass reported for the last few weeks by a dedicated group of far-right extremists who want to erase archived evidence of their past misdeeds and to neutralize our ability to expose them in the future," Loder told The Intercept.
"What I suspect happened is that Twitter's automatic systems flagged my account for some reason and no human being is reviewing these," Loder added.
A common thread connects the aforementioned suspensions: All were flagged by far-right conspiracy theorist and social media influencer Andy Ngo, who, in a Twitter exchange was invited by Musk to identify accounts for possible suspension.
"Andy Ngo's bizarre vision of 'Antifa' seems to be the metric used to delete the accounts of journalists and publications, most of which engaged in verifiably good journalism and [have] done so completely above board and [terms of service] observant ways," tweeted Shane Burley, editor of the anthology ¡No Pasarán!: Anti-fascist Dispatches From a World in Crisis. "Paranoid delusions about Antifa are driving it."
In recent days, a list of thousands of purported "Antifa" Twitter accounts—including those of CNN, actor Danny DeVito, the World Health Organization, and a "professional dog rater"—has been circulating online.
While calling the list "absurd," listee Nick Martin, publisher of the extremism monitoring site The Informant, warned: "Don't dismiss it. A mass flagging campaign has begun based on the list and is already claiming victory for a number of bans. It's a sign far-right extremists see Elon Musk as a ally who will empower them and destroy their enemies."
The suspensions of left-wing accounts came as Musk restores the accounts of far-right figures, some of whom—like former U.S. President Donald Trump—have called for or incited violence on the platform.
"The irony isn't lost on us that our suspension coincides with a coordinated effort to reinstate the most vile antisemitic, transphobic hate accounts," Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club told The Intercept. "Whether this is an indication of the future of leadership of Elon Musk's running of Twitter, we cannot say but we can say that the timing and reasoning is deliberate and targeted."
CrimethInc, which before the current suspension had never run afoul of Twitter's terms of service in its 14-year existence, said that "Musk's goal in acquiring Twitter had nothing to do with free speech. It was a partisan move to silence opposition, paving the way for fascist violence."
Jacobin's Branko Marcetic wrote Tuesday that "no one should've honestly believed Elon Musk would use his ownership of Twitter to champion free speech."
"Besides the fact that the man is a professional bullshitter," he added, "it was always dubious that a guy who slaps employees with gag orders and bars them from wearing pro-union messages had a genuine commitment to the proverbial marketplace of ideas."