We Hold These Truths
We Hold These Truths
Have you noticed a recent increase in hate speech on Twitter?
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What is it?
- Since Elon Musk acquired Twitter on October 27th, 2022, his approach to moderating speech on the platform has been subject to intense scrutiny. Musk has proclaimed himself to be a "free speech absolutist," and one of his primary goals in acquiring the platform was to increase free speech on Twitter.
- Many fear that hate speech as well as mis-, dis-, and mal-information (MDM) will proliferate on Twitter with the implementation of Musk-era guidelines.
- Nearly half a month since Musk's acquisition was finalized, there is some preliminary data on the repercussions of Musk's acquisition. Musk claims that hate speech on the platform has remained consistently below prior median levels since his takeover, reporting a decrease in viewership of hate speech by 95% since the start of Musk's tenure. Contrastingly, research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate has shown an across-the-board increase in the use of slurs and other hate speech since the October takeover.
Why is it important?
- Social media platforms are a primary news source for many Americans and also set norms of interaction. Studies show that increases in online hate speech correlate with increased acts of physical violence against minority groups.
- Twitter has previously been used to spread MDM directed at undermining American trust in elections and electoral integrity. Increasing leniency in MDM and hate speech policies may undermine the American electorate's confidence in electoral integrity.
What can you do?
- Understand changes in Twitter's rules and regulations for posting to make informed decisions about your participation on the platform.
- Report MDM when you interact with it on Twitter or other social media platforms.
- Know what resources are at your disposal if you are subject to a hate crime.
- Fact-check your news to ensure that you are consuming factually correct information.
Authored by Anna Cohen
I started looking at Twitter about seven months ago, and I thought it tended to more verbal, negative insults than anything I've seen on FB. However, I've made a practice of limiting endorsing a friend request to people I actually know in real life; consequently, I only have about 150 friends. Also, people I know tend to be nice people who don't insult others. Since I have also made a practice of not asking people to be my friends and I set controls to maintain privacy, those choices afford some protection for me, or at least, that's what I believe.
Over the past couple of months as the election date grew near, the tone on Twitter changed. It gradually became negative, abrasive, and quick to insult and put down others who disagreed, as the purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk promising free speech occurred. Calling people names, calling them stupid, or swearing is aggressive speech and shouldn't be minimized because it becomes normalized.
I like participating in discussions and hearing about how and what others think regarding various topics. I also believe that it's possible to argue about differences in politics and other topics because you can disagree with others without being disagreeable. It seems that boundaries have been eroded in reference to how we communicate with each other, especially under the assumed protection of anonymity on social media. The era of Trump putting down others has also been a factor in giving permission to aggressive speech as freedom of speech, despite his wife's request to "be presidential," her attention to cyber bullying, and her "Be Best" goal. Perhaps, hearings with government committees are in Elon Musk's future to address speech, security, and privacy issues on Twitter.
I don't think there's been an increase in hate speech on Twitter because the volume of hateful posts was already high. Maybe those posting the the hate speech are spelling their words correctly because they don't have to get around filters anymore.