Hate Speech Spikes on Twitter Following Elon Musk's Takeover

Hate Speech Spikes on Twitter Following Elon Musk's Takeover

Elon Musk's first few days at Twitter have been marked by gratuitous racism, homophobia, transphobia, Nazi memes, and other assorted forms of hate speech.

As Musk's supporters celebrated his $44 billion acquisition of the company on October 27, some — hiding behind anonymous accounts — have apparently felt emboldened to test the limits of his commitment to "free speech." According to the Network Contagion Research Institute, a third-party social media monitoring platform, usage of the n-word spiked an average of 500% over a 12-hour period.

According to theWashington Post, Musk's declaration that "the bird is freed" has been followed by mobilizing on alt-right platforms like 4chan as well as Telegram chats dedicated to the hate group QAnon. Over the past few days, Twitter users have reported widespread increase in racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic rhetoric. Insome cases, this included threats and harassment targeted directly at individuals.

“Almost immediately I noticed an increase in anti-trans harassment, it’s very visible,” trans activist Erin Reed told the paper. “I’m seeing more people in comments with explicit threats, more misgendering, more harmful slurs. I’ve gotten pictures of me getting shot by a shotgun. It’s a pretty scary environment on Twitter right now.”

While Twitter moderation policies are still in effect, the deluge of hate speech is testing the platform's capacity to monitor its content. According to the Post, "One single-word tweet, showing a single racial slur in all capital letters, was retweeted more than 700 times and liked more than 5,000 times. It was tweeted Thursday night and remained online more than 16 hours later."

This challenge comes as Musk fired many of the company's top executives, including CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, and Vijaya Gadde, the head of legal, police, trust and safety. Gadde was known for advising former CEO Jack Dorsey to not run political advertisements during the 2020 Presidential Election, as well as her role in removing Donald Trump from the platform.

Some believe that Musk's reign will bode well for Trump, pointing to comments the CEO made at a conference in May: "I do think it was not correct to ban Donald Trump — I think that was a mistake." On Friday morning, the former president took to his own social media platform, Truth Social, to celebrate the news, "I am very happy that Twitter is now in sane hands, and will no longer be run by Radical Left Lunatics and Maniacs that truly hate our country."

In addition to scaling back content moderation, Musk has also planned to take Twitter private and cut back on staff. On Saturday, the New York Timesreported that the rumored mass layoffs may be coming as early as this weekend.

Photo via Getty for The Met Museum / Vogue / Dimitrios Kambouris