Hate Speech Incidents Spike On Twitter After Musk's Takeover, Research Finds

Ever since Elon Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion a little over a month ago, the platform has gone through many changes — most of them bad. While some of the shenanigans may have been fun to watch, behind the comedy there's a lot of sadness. According to various reputable sources, mass layoffs combined with Musk's views on free speech may have resulted in Twitter becoming even more of a toxic cesspool than ever before, and it's currently experiencing a huge spike in hate speech.

When Twitter changed ownership, Musk got right to work. The billionaire fired thousands of people, and once that was over and done, he sent out an email announcing his plan for Twitter 2.0. In the email that was sent to remaining Twitter employees, Musk said that Twitter would now require them to be "hardcore," and if they were unable to commit, they would have to quit. If Musk hoped that most would choose to stay, the plan has backfired; many people took the severance package and left their jobs at Twitter. This, in turn, left the platform quite bare and devoid of many departments that were previously required to run it.

It's not just the employees of Twitter that are having a rough time. The content moderation on the platform seems to have become somewhat of an afterthought. It's no secret that Elon Musk is a "free speech absolutist," and since buying Twitter, he has reinstated some highly problematic and previously banned accounts — such as that of former president Donald Trump. These choices, combined with a lack of content moderation, might be adding up to something quite awful.

The numbers back up these claims

According to various researchers cited by The New York Times, there has been an unprecedented increase in hate speech incidents on Twitter ever since Elon Musk bought it. The publication quotes the Center for Countering Digital Hate and the Anti-Defamation League, among other groups, to back up these claims. There are numbers to back them up, too, and the figures are quite staggering.

The number of slurs that appear on Twitter, directed at Black Americans, has skyrocketed. On average, such slurs were shared on Twitter 1,282 times per day, but after Musk acquired the social media app, that number jumped to 3,876 times per day. Homophobic language, in this instance targeting gay men, is on a horrifying rise, too: from 2,506 instances per day prior to the Twitter takeover, now up to 3,964 times per day. Anti-Semitic posts have increased in frequency by 61% as well.

Twitter also seems to have stopped removing accounts that would have been banned in the past. The New York Times reports that accounts that are part of the Islamic State (previously banned because the U.S. government considers ISIS a terrorist organization) have made a comeback on Twitter. The same goes for accounts related to the conspiracy group QAnon.

Musk himself did not comment on these findings. However, in a recent tweet filled with internal Twitter slides, Musk shared claims that "hate speech impressions are lower" and "new user signups [are] at an all time high." It remains to be seen whether Musk will address the matter in the future.