Elon Musk finally took control of Twitter after buying it for a record $44 billion, one of the highest amounts anyone has ever paid in a tech acquisition. When Elon offered to buy Twitter, Musk said he was a free-speech absolutist. Musk and his fans had positioned him as an entity that would safeguard free speech at all costs. Well, it turns out people put that theory to the test.
As per a report by The Washington Post, the use of specific derogatory epithets for African-Americans, Jews, and East Asians increased by up to 500 percent on the platform once news broke of Elon Musk taking over Twitter and firing most of its executive command, including CEO Parag Agarwal.
The Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), a research group based out of Princeton that analyzes social media content to predict emerging threats, said that the use of the N-word on Twitter increased by nearly 500 percent in the 12 hours immediately after Musk’s deal was finalized.
Responding to the increase in such racial occurrences, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, on Saturday evening posted a thread blaming the hateful conduct on a “trolling campaign.”
According to Roth, over the previous 48 hours after Musk took control of the company, Twitter had seen “a small number of accounts post a ton of tweets that include slurs and other derogatory terms.” He said that more than 50,000 tweets repeatedly using the derogatory term for an African-American came from just 300 accounts, most of which were “inauthentic.”
Roth also said, “Twitter’s policies haven’t changed. Hateful conduct has no place here. And we’re taking steps to stop an organized effort to make people think we have.”
Basketball legend LeBron James tweeted that he had serious concerns about the spike in hate speech on Twitter.
“I don’t know Elon Musk, and, TBH, I could care less who owns Twitter. But I will say that if this is true, I hope he and his people take this very seriously because this is scary AF. So many damn unfit people saying hate speech is free speech,” James wrote.
While replying to James, Musk pointed to Roth’s thread on the subject. Roth noted that Twitter does not have “a list of words that are always banned. Context matters. For example, our policies are written to protect reclaimed speech.” Twitter’s rules prohibit “hateful conduct,” which includes “targeting people with dehumanizing content and slurs,” Roth wrote.