Elon Musk is turning Twitter into a platform for conspiracy theorists

After a vote, Elon Musk has brought Infowars operator Alex Jones back to Twitter/X. And he was immediately given the big stage. It fits with the development of the network, which is increasingly confusing freedom of expression with conspiracy myths.

It was one of the most sensational suspensions on Twitter: in 2018, the short message service pulled the ripcord on conspiracy king Alex Jones. Now new owner Elon Musk has brought him back after a vote. Some time ago he had drawn a hard line at one of Jones’ favorite conspiracies. However, the development did not come as a surprise – on the contrary.

This was evident in the way Musk celebrated Jones’ return. “The people have decided,” Musk announced the decision. Not all X users, but only Musk’s followers were asked to vote. But it didn’t stop there: the X owner immediately welcomed the controversial conspiracy blogger personally by meeting with him for a two-hour conversation in an X-Space. And gave him a stage in front of hundreds of thousands of listeners.

Welcome to conspiracy talk

And this round had it all. With his head audibly red, Jones was talking himself into a rage, complaining about the overlords who controlled the Matrix. Support for the global conspiracy theories came from prominent voices in the scene. Whether Andrew Tate, who was accused of human trafficking, or ex-General Michael Flynn, who was pardoned by Donald Trump and was convicted in the past for making false statements to the FBI and spreading Qanon myths. Musk treated them all as normal conversation partners who should be listened to.

What the illustrious group had in common was that they had been kicked out of Twitter for countless violations of Twitter’s guidelines – and had been rehabilitated by Musk. And that politically they are more likely to be found on the right than on the left. Musk was obviously very proud of it. A summary of the talk can be found as a pinned post at the top of his profile.

Twitter/X is slipping

This certainly serves as a symbol for the general development of the short message service. After Musk took over Twitter almost a year ago, he repeatedly declared freedom of expression to be the platform’s greatest asset. He repeatedly announced that it should become the “global marketplace of opinions,” the preferred source of news for users. In practice, this primarily means a shift to the right of the page. Back in March, a study showed a doubling of anti-Semitic content on the site.

Musk himself also plays an important role in this. In the past, he has repeatedly shared memes or posts that can at least be interpreted as agreement with conspiracy myths. He expressed his approval of tweets that insinuated a deliberate infiltration of American society by immigrants – and named Jews as the masterminds. The so-called “Great Replacement”, which aims to abolish white people, is a popular conspiracy narrative of the extreme right.

His later distancing himself was apparently not credible enough for several important advertising customers: Apple, Disney and several other large film studios subsequently withdrew their bookings. Musk reacted to the drop in income in his own way: He posted “F*ck You” in the direction of the customers who had dropped out. They are all enemies of freedom of expression.

Jones was the limit

The fact that Musk brought Jones back, of all people, still came as a surprise. Since the beginning of the year, X had already allowed numerous banned accounts, especially from the right-wing camp, back onto the site. Musk personally spoke out against unlocking Jones last year. “I have no mercy whatsoever for people who use the deaths of children to profit, whether politically or for fame,” he said at the time, referring to Jones’ promotion of the Sandy Hook conspiracy theory. Musk even referred to the death of his own child, who succumbed to sudden infant death syndrome in 2002.

Jones is considered one of the most important spreaders of the conspiracy narrative that the grisly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was staged and that the perpetrator did not murder 28 people, including 20 children. Jones was therefore sued and ordered to pay almost a billion dollars in damages.

Confronted with this by Musk, Jones backtracked. During the conversation, he excused himself by saying that he had only reported on a theory that already existed. But he now also believes that the cruel act actually happened, he emphasized several times.

Musk suspects “state manipulation”

Musk himself has not yet shown any signs of changing his mind. The X owner now sensed the latest conspiracy in the very function that he actually advertises as a guarantee of truth. In the so-called Community Notes, a selected group of users can add additional information to content in order to classify it. This has also happened to Musk again and again. In recent days he has been focusing on the arrest of the pro-Russian blogger Gonzalo Lira was shot in Ukraine and suspected censorship by President Volodymyr Zelensky.

However, when his post was accompanied by a note that was supposed to explain the legal situation in Ukraine, Musk did not see this as a welcome addition – but rather a conspiracy. “We are observing influence from state authorities here,” he claimed, adding that it would be investigated further. Musk is no longer safe even on his own network.

Sources: Twitter, The Guardian , The Conversation,