It’s apparently open season for hurling racist and homophobic slurs on Elon Musk’s “free speech absolutist” Twitter, and even ISIS is back in the game as banned accounts galore get reinstated.
We mentioned in our morning links today that Kanye West had been banned from Twitter over (sigh) a swastika on a Star of David image. But that type of consequence seems an outlier on Musk’s far more hate speech-y incarnation of Twitter. Musk rolled out the welcome mat for neo-nazis this week by restoring tens of thousands of banned accounts, and groups that pay attention to these things, like the Anti-Defamation League and Center for Countering Digital Hate, are keeping tabs. And they have a new report, picked up by the New York Times, showing an “unprecedented’ rise in hate speech on Twitter since Musk took the reins.
Speaking of Elon and Ye, since Musk’s Twitter takeover:— Francesco Zaffarano (@FraZaffarano) December 2, 2022
+202% slurs against Black Americans
+58% slurs against gay men
+61% antisemitic tweets
Data by @CCDHate + @ADL via @nytimes’ @sheeraf and @katecongerhttps://t.co/eLjWzI5XOf
How “unprecedented” is it? The Times has the numbers. “Before Elon Musk bought Twitter, slurs against Black Americans showed up on the social media service an average of 1,282 times a day. After the billionaire became Twitter’s owner, they jumped to 3,876 times a day,” the Times reports. “Slurs against gay men appeared on Twitter 2,506 times a day on average before Mr. Musk took over. Afterward, their use rose to 3,964 times a day.”
“And antisemitic posts referring to Jews or Judaism soared more than 61 percent in the two weeks after Mr. Musk acquired the site,” they add.
Hate speech impressions (# of times tweet was viewed) continue to decline, despite significant user growth!@TwitterSafety will publish data weekly.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 2, 2022
Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom of reach. Negativity should & will get less reach than positivity. pic.twitter.com/36zl29rCSM
In a seeming response to the story published early this morning, Musk is pushing back by claiming (with unverified numbers) that “Hate speech impressions (# of times tweet was viewed) continue to decline.” He appears to be making a distinction between the number of slurs found, and the number of times users actually saw them.
On a similar note, the Twitter company blog posted on Wednesday that “none of our policies have changed. Our approach to policy enforcement will rely more heavily on de-amplification of violative content: freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.” That post is written far more professionally than most Musk-speak, and is a likely bid to woo back wigged-out advertisers.
Welcome back to Twitter, ISIS...No one missed you, except @elonmusk https://t.co/zGGUkFPRGr— Peter W. Singer (@peterwsinger) November 30, 2022
Since Musk's takeover and reversal of rules, "ISD tracked 450 new Islamic State Twitter accounts – a 69 per cent increase over the previous 12 days."
And wait a minute… ISIS is making a social media comeback on Musk's Twitter? I admit I didn't see that coming, but probably should have expected it. The Times also cites a report from the Global Network on Extremism and Technology that states “In the first 12 days of the takeover, [the Institute for Strategic Dialogue] tracked 450 new Islamic State Twitter accounts – a 69 per cent increase over the previous 12 days.” That’s how this thing could go from the simple ruining of a previously good platform, a la Yahoo ruining Tumblr, to a legitimate threat to geopolitical stability.
I don't know who to trust. Elon Musk or the multiple studies saying hate speech is skyrocketing pic.twitter.com/aMKotr2zAu— Read Jackson Rising by @CooperationJXN (@JoshuaPHilll) December 2, 2022
The Times has an eerie example. “When Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, found accounts associated with Russian and Chinese state-backed influence campaigns on its platforms last month, it tried to alert Twitter, said two members of Meta’s security team, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly,” the Times explains.
“The emails to their counterparts at Twitter bounced or went unanswered, the Meta employees said, in a sign that those workers may have been fired.”
Image: Brett Jordan via Unsplash