Twitter is still in the early days of its Elon Musk era, but the company’s new owner hasn’t hesitated in leaving his mark on the social network.
According to a new survey from GLAAD, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Campaign, prominent LGBTQ accounts are already noticing a difference on the platform under Musk’s leadership.
Out of 11 LGBGT organizations surveyed, five reported experiencing more frequent abuse and hate speech following Musk’s takeover in late October. None of the groups saw a decrease in targeted hate during the same time period.
When asked if their organization had encountered a similar uptick in hate on other social networks, 90% of the respondents said that the increase in harassment was limited to Twitter. All of the organizations reported encountering hate speech and harassment on Twitter, whether in the pre or post-Musk eras.
The survey, which focused on accounts with more than 10,000 followers, is far from comprehensive, but it was designed to capture a “snapshot” of the social media landscape in the early months following Musk’s $44 billion takeover. After buying Twitter, Musk quickly reversed many of the company’s content moderation decisions, including some high-profile cases that set an ominous precedent for the platform’s many LGBTQ users.
In November, Twitter reinstated right-wing academic Jordan Peterson and The Babylon Bee, two accounts originally suspended for transphobic tweets about transgender actor Elliot Page and U.S. health official Rachel Levine, respectively. Musk had previously characterized Peterson’s infraction as “minor & dubious,” signaling his interest in reversing LGBTQ-related suspensions.
A report from GLAAD and Media Matters published in December tracked a handful of popular right-wing Twitter accounts and found a post-Musk spike in the use of the word “groomer” — an increasingly prevalent slur that labels queer people as pedophiles. Prior to Musk’s loosening of the platform’s rules around hate, Twitter classified the term as a banned anti-LGBTQ slur.
In December, Musk himself made the unfounded suggestion that Yoel Roth, Twitter’s well-respected former head of Trust and Safety, was a pedophile, kicking off a firestorm of anti-LGBTQ harassment that ultimately drove the gay former Twitter executive out of his Bay Area home.
“… This lie led directly to a wave of homophobic and antisemitic threats, of which Twitter has removed vanishingly little… [and] ultimately I had to leave my home and sell it,” Roth told Congress earlier this week.
“Those are the consequences of this kind of online harassment and speech.”