Unmasking X’s Reinstated Voices

Investigating the resurgence of once-banned X accounts.
Journalism
Hate and Discrimination
NY Times Bright Initiative

About

Stuart A. Thompson, a reporter for The New York Times on the Technology desk, specializes in covering how online information spreads. With a background in visual journalism, Thompson has been recognized for his contributions to award-winning series such as “Medicare Unmasked” and “The Home Front.” In this investigation, Thompson explores the effects of Elon Musk’s takeover of X (formally Twitter), particularly focusing on the behavior of reinstated accounts.

Challenge

Upon Elon Musk’s acquisition of X and subsequent changes to its moderation policies, there was a surge in reinstated accounts. Thompson sought to understand the behavior and influence of these accounts post-reinstatement. Collaborating with The Bright Initiative, he utilized Bright Data’s Web Scraper IDE to gather comprehensive data on over 1,000 accounts, including their posts, engagement metrics, and more.

Impact

The data-driven investigation revealed that many of the reinstated accounts resumed spreading the same type of content that had previously led to their suspension. Some of the recurring themes discussed by these accounts include Covid-19 misinformation and vaccine doubts, claims of election fraud and QAnon related content and support. This research provided valuable insights into the implications of policy changes on user behavior and discourse on the platform. Thompson was able to support his arguments with credible and comprehensive public information, reinforcing the importance of investigative journalism in the digital age.

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