Twitter’s combatting an increase in hateful tweets after Elon Musk officially acquired the company on Friday. Yoel Roth, the platform’s head of safety and integrity, said on Twitter that the company’s taking action against an “organized effort” to spread hate speech on the platform.
According to Roth, a “small number” of accounts posted a rash of tweets containing “slurs and other derogatory terms” over the past two days, with the goal of making users think Twitter’s policies surrounding content moderation have changed. Roth says that just 300 accounts sent out over 50,000 tweets using a “particular slur,” and that almost all of the accounts in question are inauthentic.
Similarly, the Network Contagion Research Institute posted a tweet on Friday showing that the use of the N-word on Twitter increased by nearly 500 percent when compared to the previous average, stating recent posts on 4chan “encourage users to amplify derogatory slurs.” Twitter has already banned some of the users involved in the campaign and is ramping up efforts to combat hate speech on the platform.
Although Musk stated that he hasn’t made any changes to Twitter’s policies yet, some users are under the impression that the platform’s content moderation rules will become more lenient with Musk at the helm. Musk previously described himself as a “free speech absolutist” and says he wants to make Twitter a “free speech platform.” This has sparked concern over how Twitter plans on handling hate speech and misinformation, which some users have already begun spewing in an attempt to test the limits of the platform’s rules.
Shortly after Musk acquired Twitter, the Associate Press reported an influx of conservative personalities and far-right users tweeting out debunked conspiracy theories and buzzwords, like “ivermectin” or “Trump won.” Meanwhile, conservative Twitter accounts belonging to people like Candace Owens, a conservative media personality, and Kari Lake, a Republican candidate in Arizona’s gubernatorial race, saw an unusual increase in followers, according to The New York Times.
“Twitter’s policies haven’t changed,” Roth says. “Hateful conduct has no place here... We’ve taken action to ban the users involved in this trolling campaign — and are going to continue working to address this in the days to come to make Twitter safe and welcoming for everyone.”
Musk said on Friday that he plans on establishing a “content moderation council” comprised of members with “widely diverse viewpoints” to make decisions about whether to take down a certain post or reinstate a user’s account. He also sent out a tweet addressed to concerned advertisers, stating he wouldn’t let Twitter become a “free-for-all-hellscape.” General Motors already paused advertising on Twitter to evaluate the “direction of the platform.”
Even still, both advertisers and users may have good reason to be worried. On Sunday, Musk tweeted out a baseless conspiracy theory about the attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Musk’s now-deleted tweet linked to a false story from an outlet known for spreading misinformation, and stated “There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye.”