The account of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was restored on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Sunday after owner Elon Musk conducted a poll among followers on Saturday and pronounced: “The People have spoken and so it shall be.”
“This will be bad for X financially, but principles matter more than money,” he added.
It’s a reversal of a 2018 decision by the social media platform’s former management to ban Jones after he promoted hate speech and antisemitic conspiracy theories and elevated extremist voices. On Saturday, Musk asked his followers in an unscientific poll whether Jones – who has falsely claimed that the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting was “staged” – should come back. In a video, Jones also asked his followers to vote for his return. About 70% in the X poll said yes.
Musk, who has himself supported conspiracy theories on the platform since he bought it in 2022, had previously backed a ban on Jones. In the post announcing the change, Musk said he still “vehemently” disagrees with Jones about Sandy Hook but justified his decision on free speech grounds.
Jones has called the mass shooting on Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut – which killed 20 children and six educators – a “staged event” plotted to bring about stricter gun laws. His first move after his X account was reinstated Sunday was to repost a message from Andrew Tate, an influencer who has been charged with rape and human trafficking, that welcomed Jones back to the social media site.
Jones, a longtime provocateur and owner of the far-right website Infowars, is still banned from other major social media sites. Infowars is also still banned by X.
In the wake of a firestorm that Musk ignited in November by amplifying antisemitic tropes, and a media watchdog report that corporate ads were appearing alongside hate speech, major advertisers such as Disney, IBM and Apple have fled the platform. Musk later apologized for an antisemitic tweet but not before unleashing an expletive-filled rant at advertisers.
That controversy was just the latest incident in the rise of far-right speech on X after the platform dramatically loosened its content moderation rules. And Musk – also the CEO of Tesla and Space X – has reinstated the accounts of some formerly banned members, such as former president Donald Trump and Kanye West.
Musk’s turnaround on Jones, which comes shortly before the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, is likely to further worsen the financially stricken company’s relationship with advertisers.
Some of Jones’ fans have physically confronted the grieving family members. Others have called the victims’ parents “actors” who falsely claimed to have children. Some parents have had to move after enduring harassment and threats.
The families successfully sued Jones, and courts have so far awarded about $1.5 billion in damages. Jones, who has been evading payment, then tried to claim personal bankruptcy, without success.
Last month, families offered Jones a deal to settle the debt for only about 6 percent of what he owed.