On Tuesday, X published a roadmap explaining how the social network will be “transforming the global town square” over the coming year. The plans include leaning into features the site rolled out in 2023—things like allowing Premium subscribers to upload two-hour-long videos, introducing Grok as a rival chatbot that is “based & loves sarcasm,” and doubling down on Community Notes to fill a gap caused by gutting the 1,500-person content moderation team.
While “2023 was foundational for X,” the company said 2024 will be made “transformational” through a handful of new features that include powering more of the platform with AI, launching peer-to-peer payments in order to “showcas[e] the power of living more of your life in one place,” and enhancing that “See Similar Posts” button. But now, there will also be a “See Dissimilar Posts” option, so users get exposed to counter viewpoints in a way that “challenges their perspectives . . . improving the quality and balance of information they receive.”
In recent months, X has reinstated the accounts of controversial figures running the gamut from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who still owes the Sandy Hook shooting-victims’ families $1 billion for defaming them, but was allowed back on X in December; Andrew Anglin, creator of neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer, who when he returned, was running from the federal government to avoid paying $14 million in court-ordered damages to a Montana Jewish family; to white nationalist Nick Fuentes, who, days before returning, said about Hitler: “This guy’s awesome, this guy’s cool.”
In 2013, during the Jack Dorsey age, Twitter permanently banned Anglin. Within days of being welcomed back, he tweeted, among other things, that women must submit to their husbands, but “Obviously they don’t do that voluntarily. You have to force her. You have to dominate the women.”
Those accounts are all active, but in the past 24 hours, X briefly cracked down on a different kind of account—ones operated by liberal journalists, most of whom qualify as loud Musk critics—without offering any explanation, the account holders say. Among them were Intercept national security reporter Ken Klippenstein and Texas Observer investigative journalist Steven Monacelli.
On Tuesday morning, Mikael Thalen, a Daily Dot writer, posted this message from Monacelli:
Other accounts suspended this week include the ones run by liberal pundit Ryan Shead, leftwing podcaster Rob Rousseau, Substack writer and online troll Zei Squirrel, MintPress journalist Alan MacLeod, and the leftwing political podcast True Anon. They all had posts criticizing Israel or were run by prominent anti-Israel voices. Most were critical of Musk as well. (X has suspended journalists who criticized Musk before, including New York Times reporter Ryan Mac and Washington Post reporter Drew Harwell.)
Nearly all those journalists were responsible for recent projects criticizing the state of Israel. Klippenstein has written an ongoing “Israel’s War on Gaza” series since the October 7 attack by Hamas. MacLeod’s last piece, from December 18, was “Blood money: The top ten politicians taking the most Israel lobby cash.” In the past weeks, True Anon published “Rogue State: Israel’s Bomb,” a two-part series on Israel’s nuclear weapons program. Before the suspension, Zei Squirrel’s most recent Substack was “The Israeli War on Gaza and Palestine.” (After the suspension, a new piece popped up asking if X’s reasons had to do with Bill Ackman, “a deranged Zionist [c***] lunatic” who Zei Squirrel was criticizing on X.)
It’s unclear if there was a common thread for the suspensions because as always, there were exceptions. (Liberal cartoonist Rob Israel—who doesn’t really weigh in on Israel, Hamas, or even Bill Ackman, but did recently draw an unflattering picture of Musk—got suspended, too.) X didn’t reply to Fast Company‘s questions asking for clarification, beyond offering its normal auto-response to press: “Busy now, please check back later.”
All the accounts appeared to be active again by early afternoon on Tuesday. It’s possible they were even reinstated with help from Musk himself, after some prodding by conservative political pundit Jackson Hinkle:
Musk responded to Hinkle’s post: “I will investigate. Obviously, it is ok to be critical of anything, but it is not ok to call for extreme violence, as that is illegal.” Former Tucker Carlson Tonight staple Glenn Greenwald joined in, too, petitioning Musk to bring back one of those accounts—the “highly popular and polarizing” Zei Squirrel’s. “We do sweeps for spam/scam accounts and sometimes real accounts get caught up in them,” Musk replied.
Meanwhile, several of the users impacted are still begging X for “a full explanation of why.” X doesn’t seem to have offered one yet, but this group might find some clues if they waded through the comments of “dissimilar posts,” where Musk seems to be hanging out.