Twitter owner Elon Musk blasted a New York Times report claiming problematic content and hate speech was on an “unprecedented” rise on the platform following his takeover, countering earlier claims by the billionaire.
According to findings by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the Anti-Defamation League, and other groups, the NY Times reported that slurs against black Americans increased from 1,282 times a day to 3,876 times. Posts against gay men and Jews went from 2,506 times to 3,964, and 61 percent, respectively during the two weeks after Musk bought Twitter.
Musk replied in a tweet that the report was “Utterly false.” The NY Times report has, till now, gotten over 44,000 likes, while the Musk response garnered 346,000 likes, and nearly 21,000 retweets.
“Elon Musk sent up the Bat Signal to every kind of racist, misogynist and homophobe that Twitter was open for business,” said Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, in the report. “They have reacted accordingly.”
The outlet said that accounts related to the terrorist group ISIS were coming back on the platform, along with QAnon supporters who have received verification symbols.
“This reporting is such garbage,” said Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow and director of the initiative on critical race theory at the Manhattan Institute. “The experience on Twitter is pretty much the same as it was before, plus a few ‘edgy’ accounts being reinstated. The left-wing journalists want to create a false narrative to justify more censorship. It’s transparent and pathetic.”
Hate Speech on Twitter
Musk has reiterated his view that hate speech will not be tolerated on the platform, and that there will be no “free-for-all hellscape” regarding speech. However, he has also upheld free speech on Twitter by uncensoring prominent conservative personalities like former president Donald Trump, investigative news organization Project Veritas, and satire site The Babylon Bee.
This has irked many on the left who advocate for banning these accounts under the pretext of hate speech.
“By ‘free speech’, I simply mean that which matches the law,” said Musk earlier in the year. “I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law. If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect. Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.”
In a Dec. 2 tweet, Musk said, “Hate speech impressions (# of times tweet was viewed) continue to decline, despite significant user growth! @TwitterSafety will publish data weekly. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom of reach. Negativity should & will get less reach than positivity.”
He added, “There are about 500M tweets per day & billions of impressions, so hate speech impressions are <0.1% of what’s seen on Twitter!”
European Backlash, Advertiser Boycott
A senior European Union official issued a warning to Musk that Twitter could be blocked on the continent if it fails to comply with the bloc’s regulations.
“There is still huge work ahead, as Twitter will have to implement transparent user policies, significantly reinforce content moderation, and protect freedom of speech, tackle disinformation with resolve, and limit targeted advertising,” EU Commissioner Thierry Breton told Musk, according to a readout of a call between the two had on Wednesday.
The warning comes amid a pullback by advertising from investing on the platform. Major brands such as Jeep, Mars candy, cereal maker Kellogg, pharma giant Merck, and Verizon had paused advertising according to an analysis report by The Washington Post.
Other brands, including United Airlines, Carlsberg, Mondelez, and General Motors, have also stopped displaying ads on Twitter.
Twitter’s policy on hateful conduct states: “You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.”