Updated Sep 13, 2023 - Technology

Watchdog accuses X again of not moderating hate speech

(X) is displayed on a smartphone

X is displayed on a smartphone. Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

X failed to remove the vast majority of posts that were flagged to the platform for containing "extreme hate speech," according to a report published Wednesday by the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

Why it matters: While third-party researchers have repeatedly claimed that X, formerly known as Twitter, has become more toxic since Elon Musk's takeover, the company has persistently denied the accusations.

  • X CEO Linda Yaccarino said in a CNBC interview in August that the platform is now "healthier and safer" than it was a year ago.

Driving the news: Each of the 300 posts examined by the nonprofit represented a "clear violation of X's policies on hate speech," the report stated.

  • 86% of the reported posts were still present on the platform a week after they were reported to moderators, the report stated.
  • Among the flagged posts were those promoting racist caricatures and denying the holocaust, as well as hateful imagery like the Nazi swastika.

What they're saying: In a statement Tuesday ahead of the report's release, X defended its content moderation practices and accused the CCDH of making "false claims," including by "misrepresenting" how widely viewed the posts in question had been.

  • "We will continue to protect free expression and simultaneously keep our platform safe for users," the company said.

The big picture: Under Elon Musk, X has loosened some restrictions on hate speech. The company this year adopted a "Freedom of Speech, not Freedom of Reach" enforcement policy, in which some content is made "less discoverable" on the platform.

  • Wednesday's findings add to those in a June report the CCDH issued. The watchdog said at the time that X had failed to act on 99% of posts from verified users that had been reported for violating hateful content rules.
  • X subsequently filed a lawsuit against the group, accusing it of making "false" claims.

Worth noting: X's hateful conduct policy prohibits users from targeting an individual or a group of people with hateful references and imagery, incitement, slurs and tropes and dehumanizing comments.

Zoom out: Last week Musk accused the Anti-Defamation League — a prominent nonprofit focused on fighting antisemitism and hate speech — of causing X's recent slump in advertising revenue. He threatened to file a defamation suit against the group.

  • While Musk has insisted that he is "pro free speech, but against anti-Semitism of any kind," ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt accused Musk of engaging in a "highly toxic, antisemitic campaign."
  • Antisemitism in the U.S. has surged in recent years. According to the ADL, the U.S. is already on track this year to surpass 2022's record high in antisemitic incidents.

Our thought bubble, from Axios' Sara Fischer: The issue points to where third-party research groups and X's perspectives on hate speech could diverge. What Musk and X think is not considered removable speech, researchers may disagree.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from X.

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