Elon Musk restores X account of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones

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BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Elon Musk has restored the X account of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, pointing to a poll on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter that came out in favor of the Infowars host who repeatedly called the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting a hoax.

It poses new uncertainty for advertisers, who have fled X over concerns about hate speech appearing alongside their ads, and is the latest divisive public personality to get back their banned account.

Musk posted a poll on Saturday asking if Jones should be reinstated, with the results showing 70% of those who responded in favor. Early Sunday, Musk tweeted, “The people have spoken and so it shall be.”

A few hours later, Jones’ posts were visible again and he retweeted a post about his video game. He and his Infowars show had been permanently banned in 2018 for abusive behavior.

Musk, who has described himself as a free speech absolutist, said the move was about protecting those rights. In response to a user who posted that “permanent account bans are antithetical to free speech,” Musk wrote, “I find it hard to disagree with this point.”

The billionaire Tesla CEO also tweeted it’s likely that Community Notes — X’s crowd-sourced fact-checking service — “will respond rapidly to any AJ post that needs correction.”

It is a major turnaround for Musk, who previously said he wouldn’t let Jones back on the platform despite repeated calls to do so. Last year, Musk pointed to the death of his first-born child and tweeted, “I have no mercy for anyone who would use the deaths of children for gain, politics or fame.”

Jones repeatedly has said on his show that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six educators never happened and was staged in an effort to tighten gun laws.

Relatives of many of the victims sued Jones in Connecticut and Texas, winning nearly $1.5 billion in judgments against him. In October, a judge ruled that Jones could not use bankruptcy protection to avoid paying more than $1.1 billon of that debt.

Relatives of the school shooting victims testified at the trials about being harassed and threatened by Jones’ believers, who sent threats and even confronted the grieving families in person, accusing them of being “crisis actors” whose children never existed.

Jones is appealing the judgments, saying he didn’t get fair trials and his speech was protected by the First Amendment.

Restoring Jones’ account comes as Musk has seen a slew of big brands, including Disney and IBM, stop advertising on X after a report by liberal advocacy group Media Matters said ads were appearing alongside pro-Nazi content and white nationalist posts.

They also were scared away after Musk himself endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory in response to a post on X. The Tesla CEO later apologized and visited Israel, where he toured a kibbutz attacked by Hamas militants and held talks with top Israeli leaders.

But he also has said advertisers are engaging in “blackmail” and, using a profanity, essentially told them to go away.

“Don’t advertise,” Musk said in an on-stage interview late last month at The New York Times DealBook Summit.

After buying Twitter last year, Musk said he was granting “amnesty” for suspended accounts and has since reinstated former President Donald Trump; Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, following two suspensions over antisemitic posts last year; and far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was kicked off the platform for violating its COVID-19 misinformation policies.

Trump, who was banned for encouraging the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection, has his own social media site, Truth Social, and has only tweeted once since being allowed back on X.

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