A year after Twitter restricted Russian government accounts on its platform, the social network appears to have removed those blocks. The platform, owned by Elon Musk, has returned accounts belonging to Vladimir Putin and the Russian embassy to its search results.
The change, spotted by The Telegraph, also shows Russian authorities’ reports on timelines and recommendations. A former Twitter employee told the publication that this move is likely due to a policy change.
Twitter has been changing its policies on a number of things in recent days, including which accounts it considers government and state-related. The earlier version had a section called “Do these labels limit functionality?” where the company described how it was limiting the reach of some accounts in this category.
“In the case of state-affiliated media entities, Twitter will not recommend or endorse accounts or their tweets with these labels to people. In limited circumstances where there is an increased risk of harm, including situations where governments block access to information on the Internet in the context of armed conflict, Twitter will also not recommend or amplify certain government accounts or their Tweets with these labels to people,” , is the policy.
Now the company has completely removed that part. Additionally, in a response to a user over the weekend, Musk said Twitter will move forward “neither solicit nor limit their accounts” and that the company will “respond swiftly to attempts to game the system.” Historically, there have been multiple occasions when the Kremlin used Twitter accounts to manipulate a story.
Last year, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Twitter enforced a policy which curbed the growth of government bills of countries that had blocked the free flow of information.
“When a government blocks or restricts access to online services within their state, undermining the voice of the public and the ability to freely access information, but continues to use online services for their own communications, a serious information -imbalance. Especially at times of active, armed conflict between states, the damage caused by this imbalance is acute; access to information and the ability to share information are of paramount importance,” the company said a blog post at the time.
After acquiring Twitter, Musk has sought to dismiss the social network’s role as an arbiter of truth, remove several staffers from the moderation team, and expand the role of Community Notes – the company’s crowdsourced fact-checking product – to address the burdensome work to do.
Over the weekend, the Anonymous Operations account called out Twitter’s lack of action on a Russian official’s tweet encouraging the “disappearance of Ukraine.” In response, Musk said all the news is “some degree of propaganda” and that he believes people should be allowed to make their own decisions, indicating that Twitter will not interfere in matters that may violate the company’s speech policy. social network under the previous administration.
Under Musk, Twitter has made tough media-related decisions. Last week, the company blocked replies, retweets and likes posts with Substack links after the newsletter platform revealed a Twitter clone called Notes. Twitter has since lifted most of those restrictions, but it still seems to restrict searches with Substack links.
Separately, Musk labeled NPR a “U.S. state-affiliated media” and then changed it to “government-funded media” after outcry. Other publications such as BBC, PBS and Voice of America have also been labeled as ‘government funded media’. The BBC has objected to this label, saying the organization is funded by “the British public through the license fee”.
Last week, Musk unchecked the New York Times account after the publication refused to pay for Twitter’s paid verification service. The company initially planned to remove deprecated verification characters on April 1, but has not yet gone through with it.