Twitter exec says moving fast on moderation, as harmful content surges

DUBAI: On November 4, just a week after Twitter completed its acquisition, billionaire Elon Musk tweeted that the platform had “seen hate speech several times this week *below our prior criteria* Below, which you can read The opposite is the press.”;

However, newly published data from several organizations suggest otherwise.

In the first 12 days following the acquisition, the Strategic Dialogue Institute tracked 450 newly created Twitter accounts linked to Daesh, a 69 percent increase from the previous 12 days.

Meanwhile, the Center for Countering Digital Hate said that in the week beginning October 31, the first full week Musk owned it, a particular racial slur appeared in tweets and was retweeted 26,228 times, the highest for 2022 for that slur. tripled the average. 33,926 tweets and retweets mentioned the derogatory term used to attack the other group, a 53 percent increase from the 2022 average.

Musk’s acquisition of Twitter has been controversial from the time he announced it. This comes as the social media platform has been under scrutiny for some time over its policies on content moderation and efforts to tackle hate speech.

Musk, however, describes himself as a “free speech absolutist” and said he wants to change the way in which content is moderated on the platform. During a TED talk in April, the same month he reached his agreement to buy Twitter, he talked about his plans for moderation and suggested he might make Twitter’s algorithm open source.

On 28 October, the day after the completion of their takeover, they announced their plans to form “a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints”.

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On 4 November he said: “Twitter’s strong commitment to content moderation remains absolutely unchanged.”

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But CCDH’s analysis showed that, despite initial claims by Musk and Twitter’s head of trust and safety at the time, Yoel Roth, that the platform was successful in reducing the number of hate speech on Twitter’s search and trending pages, the actual Hate tweets increased on the platform.

For example, before Musk bought Twitter, slurs against Black Americans appeared on the platform an average of 1,282 times a day. In the days that followed, the number increased to 3,876 a day, The New York Times reported. It said anti-Semitic posts increased by more than 61 percent in the two weeks following Musk’s arrival.

A separate study by the Network Contagion Research Institute found that the use of a derogatory racial term for black people increased by nearly 500 percent in the 12 hours immediately after Musk changed ownership.

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Analysts say the rise in hate speech on Twitter is not only dangerous for users and society, but also for the company itself. According to research and information center Media Matters for America, 50 of the platform’s top 100 advertisers have either announced they will no longer advertise on Twitter or have simply shut down.

Collectively, they contributed nearly $2 billion in advertising revenue to the platform from 2020 and more than $750 million in 2022 alone.

Roth left the company last month and later said: “I realized that even though I spent all day, every day trying to avert whatever was the next disaster, those were happening.

Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, said Musk’s Twitter was a cacophony of authoritarianism, arrogance and blatant disregard for expert advice.

If this continues, he warned, “under Musk’s leadership, Twitter will become a feverish swamp of dangerous conspiracy theories, partisan hoaxes and operational harassment.”