Elon Musk is threatening us for telling the truth about Twitter
2023-08-01 - Scroll down for original article
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This weekend Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, was welcomed back to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, with open arms. The account was reactivated just months after it had been suspended for Ye repeatedly tweeting hateful and antisemitic statements. In December, when he praised Hitler and posted an image that appeared to show a swastika inside a Star of David, Twitter owner Elon Musk tweeted that Ye had “again violated our rule against incitement to violence.” When Ye posted an image that appeared to show a swastika inside a Star of David, Musk tweeted that he had “again violated our rule against incitement to violence.” At the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) we haven’t heard of any apologies Ye has made for those tweets. Nor do we know of any promises he’s made to abide by the “community standards” that apply — in theory, at least — to all users. Even so, Musk has decided that Ye, who has an inglorious track record of posting hate speech, deserves to be on his platform. After self-reporting that advertising revenue is down 50%, Musk is desperate to court advertisers. It’s clear from the company’s announcement of Ye’s return that its executives know his hateful posts are anathema to advertisers. After all, X has also promised advertisers that their ads won’t appear next to his posts. What’s perhaps most revealing about that promise is that it means that X is capable of identifying and recognizing hateful posts, understands how repugnant such posts are to most people, and, despite that understanding, is nevertheless choosing to invite Ye again: perhaps for the division, fear, anger and attention he might generate. The Center for Countering Digital Hate has been at the forefront of cataloging and reporting on the hate proliferating on Twitter/X under Musk’s ownership, which began in October. Despite his claim the following month that “hate speech impressions” were down by one-third, we at the CCDH have found that hate and disinformation on his platform have increased under Musk's leadership. CCDH’s reporting has shown that the volume of tweets containing slurs have risen by up to 202%; shown that tweets linking LGBTQ+ people to “grooming” have more than doubled; demonstrated that climate denial content and accounts are surging; and revealed Twitter’s failure to act on hate posted by Twitter Blue subscribers. Members of Twitter’s own Trust and Safety Council resigned, citing CCDH findings in their resignation statement. Our research has been cited by many news outlets, including NBC News. So what has Musk, that self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” done in the face of this wave of hate on his platform that is driving advertisers away? He is trying to silence the independent researchers at CCDH who are shining a light on the situation. Musk and his legal team have engaged in an aggressive campaign to intimidate, bully and silence CCDH, including Musk on July 18 calling my organization “evil” and me, its CEO, a “rat.” On July 20, Musk cold-called my organization’s board chair and demanded a conversation, giving him a deadline of two hours to respond. Later that same day, a law firm representing Musk sent a letter threatening a lawsuit against us based on the “fanciful” legal theory that “CCDH intends to harm Twitter’s business” and that we have violated a law created to prohibit false advertising. He has accused us of working for his competitors, or for foreign governments, even though we’ve published reports critical of his competitors and even though we aren’t funded by any government or social media company. X’s legal threat is a brazen attempt to silence honest criticism and independent research, perhaps in a desperate hope that it can stem the tide of negative stories and rebuild the company's relationship with advertisers. Advertisers have the right to decide not to be associated with something known to be harmful and toxic. Musk has fostered the proliferation of hate and racism on his platform, and advertisers have the right to decide not to be associated with something known to be harmful and toxic. Musk is targeting CCDH because we reveal the truth about the spread of hate and disinformation on the social media platform during his ownership, and his bottom line is taking a hit. Through lawyers, CCDH responded Monday to Musk’s “ridiculous letter” that attempts to intimidate and silence us. In our letter we promise that we will continue to hold accountable social media companies that spread hate and disinformation to the public. The public, researchers and advertisers deserve a more transparent, accountable and responsible X (Twitter). To do anything less is to let the bullies win.