Nov 12, 2022 - Economy

Elon Musk's Twitter sees rise in racial slurs, hate speech

Illustration of the Twitter bird logo with emoji side eyes

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The use of racial slurs on Twitter has soared since Elon Musk's takeover, a new report has found.

Why it matters: Twitter has made it clear on multiple occasions that there would be a decline in the hateful and racist language since Musk took over. But these claims don't "stand up to scrutiny," according to the report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

The big picture: Since his takeover began, Musk has promoted himself as a free-speech first leader with a plan to update the company's content moderation policies. This has worried advertisers about what content they might see on the platform and has stoked fears that there would be a surge in hate speech.

By the numbers: One racial slur was used 26,228 times in tweets and retweets in Musk's first week, which was triple the 2022 average, according to the new report.

  • Another word used to attack transgender people was used 33,926 times in tweets and retweets, which was 53% higher than the 2022 average.
  • Hateful language to describe gay people, Jews and Hispanics also saw an increase since Musk took over the company.

What they said: "The figures show that despite claims ... that the platform had succeeded in reducing the number of times hate speech was being seen on Twitter’s search and trending page, the actual volume of hateful tweets has spiked," according to an analysis of the report.

Flashback: Musk said after his first week at the company that Twitter saw a decline in hate speech. These comments came after the Washington Post reported that racist tweets quickly surfaced after Musk's takeover.

  • Twitter’s then-head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, similarly tweeted that there has been a reduction in hateful language across the platform, including on the search and trending pages.
  • "We're continuing our work to make Twitter safer every day," Roth said at the time.
  • Roth resigned from the company Thursday, Axios reports. Musk had been relying on Roth to explain how Twitter was handling the rise in hateful language across the platform.

Go deeper: Elon Musk's acquisition exceptionalism

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