Democrats call on Musk to target hate speech on Twitter

Elon Musk arrives at Baron Investment Conference at the Metropolitan Opera House, Nov. 4, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, file)

Two House Democrats have called on Twitter CEO Elon Musk on Thursday to take action against the rise of hate speech on Twitter.

In a letter sent to Musk, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.) wrote that there has been an “extreme spike” in the number of tweets with slurs, and engagement with those tweets, since the billionaire took over the social media app.

The letter cited data from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) showing that the number of tweets containing slurs has grown exponentially when compared to the 2022 average. 

“Slurs against Black people have tripled in daily mentions. Slurs against women have increased 33 percent from the 2022 average mentions, and slurs against gay men have increased by 58 percent,” the letter said.

“Before you assumed the role of CEO, engagement with these tweets averaged 13.3 replies, retweets, or likes. Now, engagement with slurs has increased 273 percent, with the average number of replies, retweets, or likes averaging 49.5 on tweets containing hate speech.”

The letter also highlighted the rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric on the platform. 

“We find the rise of extremist actors and hate speech on Twitter demonstrably at odds with your company’s statement that human safety is a top priority,” they wrote.

The lawmakers posed a series of questions to the Twitter owner about his plans for content moderation and the capability of the Twitter workforce to implement and enforce his new policies. 

The Hill reached out to Twitter for comment. 

Since Musk took over Twitter in a $44 billion acquisition, he has enacted various efforts to promote “free speech” on the platform, such as removing the COVID-19 misinformation policy, cutting key staff involved in content moderation, and re-platforming banned accounts.

Hate speech reportedly soared on Twitter the week after Musk’s purchase in early November. Yoel Roth, then Twitter’s head of trust and safety, said at the time that the company had “reduced impressions” on hateful content.

“We’ve not only mitigated the recent surge in harmful behavior, but have reduced impressions on this content in Search by ~95% relative to even prior baseline levels,” wrote Roth, who resigned from Twitter in November.

Tags Adam Schiff Elon Musk Elon Musk hate speech Mark Takano Twitter
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