Hate messages on Twitter have been on the rise since Elon Musk took over the platform at the end of October. This is evident from various studies by universities and internet watchdogs.
Musk has brought back thousands of suspended tweeters, along with massive numbers of internet safety experts and moderators laid off.
Musk wants to moderate in a different way, but that doesn’t seem to work. Shortly after the takeover, the Center against Digital Hatred (CCDH) observed a tripling of tweets containing the ‘n-word’. The use of swear words for gays, transgender people, women and Jews also increased.
Imran Ahmed of the CCDH: “The platform has descended into a hellish landscape, where, in addition to more hate messages, the amount of disinformation about climate and science has also increased.” His organization calls it the “Musk Bump.”
Twitter in heavy weather
The chaos at Twitter has caused an exodus of advertisers. As a result, revenues in the last quarter fell by 40 percent compared to a year earlier, even by 70 percent in December.
Moreover, there are payment problems and according to some analysts the company is only worth a third of the purchase price of $ 44 billion.
Musk announced his departure as CEO in December after a majority had asked for it in a Twitter poll. The billionaire says he will step aside once he finds a new CEO. He will continue to lead the technical side of the company.
Especially new paying Twitter blue users seem to spread a lot of disinformation. Twitter recently made it possible to get a ‘blue check mark’ with your username for eight dollars a month. That symbol was previously only awarded to verified users, mostly politicians, scientists and journalists.
27 percent of the most popular 300 posts posted by the new paying users claims about Ukraine, vaccines and climate that are not true. That’s nearly 10 percent more than non-paying verified users.
The new blue tick was soon abused by people posing as celebrities. Prominent Taliban members also recently purchased blue check marks. They are now complaining that their blue ticks have now decreased even though they have been paid for.
Musk turns a blind eye to highly problematic content.
Emilie de Keulenaar, Open Intelligence Lab
Internet watchdogs argue that Musk is achieving the opposite of the freedom of speech he says he strives for. “Abuse and intimidation undermine that,” says Angelo Carusone of the American Media Matters. According to him, minorities avoid the platform because of this.
According to the CCDH, it is a deliberate strategy by Musk, as anger is known to keep people on social media platforms longer. Twitter has stopped responding to requests for comment since the acquisition. The communications team has been largely laid off.
Musk claims visibility of hate messages has dropped by a third. According to the CCDH, that claim does not match the data. The organization says it uses the same methods as Twitter to measure this. Media Matters calls Mush’s claim a blatant lie. “He messes with the figures, many organizations see an increase.”
Musk sees more in making messages less visible than in removing them. But he does not live up to that either, says Emilie de Keulenaar of the Amsterdam Open Intelligence Lab, which is affiliated with the University of Amsterdam. “Musk turns a blind eye to highly problematic content.”
Among the suspended accounts that have been allowed back on Twitter are well-known neo-Nazis. Conspiracy thinker David Icke, who was refused entry to the Netherlands last year, is also back on the platform, as is the alleged mastermind behind QAnon and several supporters of that extreme conspiracy theory.
Prominent spreaders of corona disinformation also returned to the platform. Convicted far-right Capitol stormer ‘Baked Alaska’ and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes also made their comebacks. Fuentes was suspended again last week, a day after his return, after glorifying Hitler.
For example, more anti-Semitic code words are circulating on Twitter, such as #TheNoticing, which means that a striking number of Jews would occupy influential positions.
But especially the number of anti-LGBTI expressions is increasing. Often in combination with the term grooming, Media Matters notes. “This suggests that homosexuals are pedophiles,” says director Angelo Carusone. “It’s a code word to attack people.”
It is a blatant lack of interest in countries outside the US.
Emilie de Keulenaar, Open Intelligence Lab
Emilie de Keulenaar of the Amsterdam Open Intelligence Lab sees in her recently completed data research that the hashtag #StoptheSteal, which was previously regarded as harmful, has hardly been moderated since November. The term suggests that the US election results are false.
The campaign culminated in the storming of the Capitol in Washington. Calls for a coup in Brazil also shot up especially on Twitter last month and were shared and liked tens of thousands of times.
“They were not tagged, removed or moderated in any way,” says De Keulenaar. Musk reportedly fired all his moderators in the country shortly before the storming of parliament in Brasilia. Emilie, half Brazilian herself: “It’s a blatant lack of interest in countries outside the US.”
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