Elon Musk’s proposal to grant an amnesty to suspended Twitter accounts would see a number of controversial figures allowed back on to the platform.
Mr Musk has said he would grant the reprieve to those accounts which had not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam” as part of his personal pledge to increase free speech on the site.
The exact process for how Twitter will decide if an account falls within these boundaries has not been disclosed.
But the amnesty could reinstate a range of controversial figures who were banned for breaching the site’s rules around hateful conduct, inciting violence or spreading misinformation.
That list of suspended accounts includes former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon, right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins, conspiracy theorist David Icke, and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke.
Rapper Wiley – who was banned in 2020 for antisemitic comments – and Father Ted creator Graham Linehan, who was also banned in 2020 for breaking Twitter rules around hateful conduct with comments about trans people, could also return to the platform.
And it remains unclear if the accounts of other extreme figures, such as that of far-right activist Tommy Robinson – real name Stephen Yaxley Lennon – and Britain First leader Paul Golding would have their own permanent bans reconsidered.
Mr Musk’s decision has sparked alarm among online safety campaigners, with many warning that the change would lead to a rise in hate and abuse on the site.
Tony Restell, the founder of social media agency Social-Hire, said: “It beggars belief that this is even being considered.
“Imagine the uproar if a new government was elected and said they were going to release everyone from prison. The public would be terrified.
“Well, this is the social media equivalent and is just the latest example of Musk demonstrating his weak moral compass.”
Mr Musk has said that, under his leadership, Twitter will look to combat any attempts to spread hate or abuse by minimising and demoting such content so fewer people see it.
But Adam Hadley, executive director of UN-backed safety group Tech Against Terrorism, said the approach could allow more dangerous content to spread on the site.
“Mr Musk is playing with fire by threatening to dismantle policies and processes developed to counter terrorist and violent content and operations,” he said.
“People and entities previously banned for hate speech and extremism should remain banned in the future.
“Elon Musk says hate tweets will be ‘demoted and demonetised’. In fact, this latest pronouncement leaves the platform ripe for the delivery and deployment of terrorist content and operations.
“Harmful content may be harder to find, but they will remain on Twitter.”