Instances of the N-word on Twitter increased by almost 500% in a 12-hour period over the previous average following Musk’s closing on the $44 billion acquisition, according to the Princeton-based Network Contagion Research Institute, which tracks “cyber-social threats.”
Responding to the increase in N-word occurrences, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, on Saturday evening posted a thread blaming the hateful conduct on a “trolling campaign.” According to Roth, over the previous 48 hours, Twitter had seen “a small number of accounts post a ton of tweets that include slurs and other derogatory terms.” He said more than 50,000 tweets repeatedly using “a particular slur” — an evident reference to the N-word — had come from just 300 accounts, nearly all of which are “inauthentic.”
“Twitter’s policies haven’t changed. Hateful conduct has no place here. And we’re taking steps to put a stop to an organized effort to make people think we have,” Roth said.
Earlier Saturday, NBA star LeBron James tweeted that he had serious concerns about the spike in hate speech on Twitter. “I dont know Elon Musk and, tbh, I could care less who owns twitter. But I will say that if this is true, I hope he and his people take this very seriously because this is scary AF. So many damn unfit people saying hate speech is free speech,” James wrote on Saturday.
Replying to James, Musk pointed to Roth’s thread on the subject. Roth noted that Twitter does not have have “a list of words that are always banned. Context matters. For example, our policies are written to protect reclaimed speech.” Twitter’s rules prohibit “hateful conduct,” which includes “targeting people with dehumanizing content and slurs,” Roth wrote.
Meanwhile, Musk, the world’s richest person who is himself famous for trolling, on Sunday appeared to have violated Twitter’s policies on misinformation — with a tweet he later deleted.
On Saturday, Hillary Clinton commented on the brutal attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of Nancy Pelosi, by a QAnon conspiracy theorist. “The Republican Party and its mouthpieces now regularly spread hate and deranged conspiracy theories,” she wrote. “It is shocking, but not surprising, that violence is the result. As citizens, we must hold them accountable for their words and the actions that follow.”
In a now-deleted tweet, Musk replied to Clinton’s tweet Sunday, writing, “There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye” — and linking to an article baselessly positing a homophobic far-right conspiracy theory. Before Musk deleted the tweet, Jimmy Kimmel quoted it with the comment, “it has been interesting, over the years, to watch you blossom from the electric car guy into a fully-formed piece of shit @elonmusk” (to which Musk replied with a crying-face emoji).
Musk’s tweet apparently crashed the site’s web servers, rendering it inaccessible. “I reported Elon’s baseless conspiracy tweet to Elon,” tweeted lawyer Richard Signorelli, a former U.S. assistant district attorney.
Musk immediately fired Twitter’s CEO and other top execs last Thursday, reportedly claiming the terminations were “for cause” in order to avoid having to shell out tens of millions of dollars in golden-parachute payments.
Starting as soon as Saturday, Oct. 29, Musk was planning to begin layoffs across Twitter, the New York Times reported. The round of job cuts would take place before a Nov. 1 date when employees were scheduled to receive stock grants as part of their compensation, per the Times report, and by laying off staffers before that date, “Mr. Musk may avoid paying the grants.” On Sunday, Musk responded to the report that he was making layoffs before Nov. 1 to avoid making stock payouts, saying, ”This is false.”
On Friday Musk claimed Twitter will form a new content-moderation council with “widely diverse viewpoints” and that the company won’t enact major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before then. Musk underscored the point later in the day: “To be super clear, we have not yet made any changes to Twitter’s content moderation policies.”