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The numbers are now coming in. Elon Musk’s quest to turn his newly owned social media platform into a welcome haven for Nazis, bigots, misogynists, and hate groups—all cuddling together beneath the trademark Blue Bird and defiantly waving the flag of “free speech”—is proceeding exactly as almost everyone predicted. 

As reported by Sheera Frengel and Kate Conger for The New York Times, research conducted by multiple organizations including the Anti-Defamation League and the Center for Countering Digital Hate confirms that since Musk took over the social media behemoth, hate speech on the Twitter platform has surged to unprecedented levels. And we’re talking about particularly racist and antisemitic hate speech. Based on the numbers seen thus far—most of which predate Musk’s declaration that he would bring formerly banned hate groups back beginning this week—these users are but a preliminary taste of the rolling ball of snakes now growing exponentially as prior bad actors swiftly emerge from under their rocks to join the juggernaut. 

As Frengel and Conger report:

Before Elon Musk bought Twitter, slurs against Black Americans showed up on the social media service an average of 1,282 times a day. After the billionaire became Twitter’s owner, they jumped to 3,876 times a day.

Slurs against gay men appeared on Twitter 2,506 times a day on average before Mr. Musk took over. Afterward, their use rose to 3,964 times a day.

And antisemitic posts referring to Jews or Judaism soared more than 61 percent in the two weeks after Mr. Musk acquired the site.

The better metric to judge the transformation would appear to be the percentage increase in hate speech, as the relatively small numbers discussed above would appear to reflect the “early adopters” who fairly leaped to test the limits of their general nastiness as soon as Musk announced his takeover, and before he declared his proposed “amnesty” for banned users. Researchers suggest that indicates a “further surge” could be coming. 

“Elon Musk sent up the Bat Signal to every kind of racist, misogynist and homophobe that Twitter was open for business,” said Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. “They have reacted accordingly.”

As Frengel and Conger report, “they” include those who identify with murderous terrorist organizations such as ISIS and pathological right-wing cults such as QAnon, whom the researchers describe as “roaring back” into the fold. For example, according to the Global Network on Extremism and Technology:

Following Musk’s purchase, a Twitter account appeared and began retweeting Islamic State content while impersonating a fitness and Only Fans model with more than 304,000 followers on Twitter, 3.23 million followers on YouTube and more than 6 million followers on Instagram. The account is one of a pair, the other using an avatar of a lingerie model whose sole purpose is to amplify tweets, Twitter Spaces, and other content by Islamic State supporters on the platform.

Musk has disputed the researchers’ findings, calling them “utterly false.” He contends that the number of times such hate speech has been actually viewed (“impressions”) has decreased since his initial takeover. However, since the number of employees actually responsible for moderating hate speech on the platform has dwindled in tandem with Musk’s firings, it’s not clear exactly what information he’s relying on to make this claim.

As reported by Brandy Zadrozny for NBC News, the ban “reversals” thus far number about 12,000 in the first week of Musk’s “amnesty,” as calculated by Travis Brown, a software developer who keeps track of Twitter users who are suspended.

In that time, Brown has logged an estimated 12,000 reversals of past bans, in a set that, while not a definitive list of reversals, provides a window into the types of users being welcomed back to the platform and leaving experts alarmed. Among the spammers, copyright rule-breakers, adult-content creators and high-profile accounts, Twitter has reopened the door to a growing and emboldened community of trolls, white nationalists, conspiracy theorists and extreme right-wing activists.

For their part, advertisers can now look forward to hawking their wares alongside Holocaust deniers, white supremacist militia groups, and misogynist incels, all of whom will gleefully spew their venom at Blacks, Jews, women and liberals—in fact, at anyone they fancy targeting with doxxing, threats, and harassment. Kara Swisher, a columnist and podcaster for TheNew York Times, notes that as a longtime Twitter user she has had to limit comments for the first time because “the anti-gay stuff alone was heartbreaking.” 

And that seems to be the point. Yes, there are ways to navigate around or ignore these scummy people but at some point, as Musk’s cesspool becomes more and more polluted, many will begin to ask themselves whether the benefits of using Twitter really outweigh the negatives.

This content was originally published here.

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