Twitter found a red line that politicians can’t cross, but quickly erased it.
Content moderation was one of the biggest questions that arose when Elon Musk first took over Twitter for $44 billion last fall. Some questioned whether he would give far-right actors freer reign while others joked about his previous stances about being supportive of “even his worst critics” ended as soon as some people said something mean about the Tesla (TSLA) – Get Free Report founder.
Many liberal fears were confirmed when, last November, Musk ended a ban on former president Donald Trump. The ban was placed after Trump exhorted his followers to come to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021 to overturn his loss in the presidential election, resulting in the fatal attack on the Capitol.
“The people have spoken,” Musk wrote on Nov, 18 after conducting an online poll about whether to reinstate Trump’s account. “Trump will be reinstated.” Trump, in turn, was not particularly moved by the decision and has not tweeted despite being able to.
What Was The Graphic Image Posted By The Senator?
An unexpected move toward greater moderation took place when, on Tuesday, Senator Steve Daines (R-Montana) had his account banned over violating Twitter’s police against “graphic violence or adult content in profile images” — as first reported by CNN, Daines had posted a hunting photo of himself and his wife posing behind an antelope that they had just killed.
“Last night the senator was notified his Twitter account was locked because his profile picture violated their rules against ‘graphic violence,'” Daines’ office said in a statement provided to media outlets after the account was locked. “The picture is of him and his wife Cindy with a Montana antelope.”
The profile picture was posted on Daines’ official senator account but not his campaign one. Daines’s office further called the ban “preposterous” and punitive of what they said is “the Montana way of life.”
“Our team has reached out to Twitter to get this resolved because the Senator believes it is preposterous that a picture of him and his wife hunting — an activity that is engrained in the Montana way of life — would be against Twitter rules,” the office said.
This Is Where Twitter Stands On Content Moderation Under Musk
While Twitter Trust and Safety VP Ella Irwin initially said that the ban was put in place because Twitter does not allow photos of “dead animals or blood in profile photos” that cannot be slapped with a content warning like a regular post.
Musk tweeted that the issue was being “fixed.”
Daines’ account was reinstated a few hours later (but not before Republicans got the #FreeSteveDaines hashtag trending.)
On Wednesday, Daines was back to tweeting complaints about President Biden.
Despite the current incident which arose even though the antelope had relatively small specks of blood on its front, Twitter under Musk has been facing significant pressure over what is generally a laxer approach to content moderation.
After passing stricter laws on hate speech, the European Union has questioned Musk’s ability to remain “vigilant” on enforcement given his multiple provocative statements about fighting the “censorships” of his predecessors.
“The next few months will be crucial to transform commitments into reality,” EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said in a statement. “We need to see progress towards full compliance with the Digital Services Act. “My team will follow closely the work by Twitter and by all other online platforms.”