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Hate speech on Twitter has increased since Elon Musk took over, study finds

Musk acquired Twitter with the hope of increasing free speech, but instead it seems to have led users to be more hostile in their tweets

SHARE Hate speech on Twitter has increased since Elon Musk took over, study finds
The Twitter logo is seen on a mobile phone on Oct. 14, 2022, in Boston.

The Twitter logo is seen on a mobile phone, Oct. 14, 2022, in Boston.

Michael Dwyer, Associated Press

Hate speech tweets have flooded Twitter following Elon Musk’s acquisition of the social media platform on Oct. 27, according to a study conducted by Montclair State University.

The study found that after Musk’s takeover of Twitter, the amount of “vulgar and hostile” rhetoric experienced an immediate spike, according to CBS News. The researchers found that, before Musk’s ownership, the platform never saw more than 84 tweets with hate terms in an hour.

However, after ownership shifted, hate speech appeared in tweets 4,778 times in a matter of 12 hours, equalling about 398 hostile tweets an hour. The team observed hostile terms against race, religion, ethnicity and orientation, according to Montclair State University.

The Network Contagion Research Institute also found the use of the N-word increased by 500% within the first 12 hours of Musk’s ownership, per Forbes. The number of tweets with antisemitic rhetoric, racist terms and hostile LGBTQ attacks also spiked.

What led to this hate speech increase?

Musk has been a proponent of more free speech on Twitter and has previously criticized the company for being rigid and suppressive, according to ABC News.

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said after the Twitter deal was announced.

According to The Washington Post, his ownership seems to have encouraged some accounts to perceive that the old rules against bigotry no longer apply. Despite advocating for more free speech on Twitter, Musk informed users through a tweet that he couldn’t let the platform be a “free-for-all,” per Fortune.

Musk plans to form a moderation council with diverse views to oversee decisions on content and accounts.