LGBTQ activists and organizations are suffering from surging hate speech on Twitter under Elon Musk’s possession, according to a new survey released yesterday by Amnesty International USA, GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign.
Since Musk acquired the massive social media platform in Oct. 2022, LGBTQ users, activists, organizations and those who advocate for the community have witnessed and experienced an upsurge of harassment and abusive speech, the survey revealed.
About 60% of survey respondents reported an increase in anti-LGBTQ abuse, while the other 40% reported having seen the same level of treatment since Musk acquired Twitter. Ultimately, none of the respondents reported a decrease in such behavior.
Participants of the survey included 11 LGBTQ organizations and nine high-profile LGBTQ advocates, with a focus on those with large Twitter followings, 70% of whom having at least 10,000 Twitter followers. The goal of the survey, according to a press release from Amnesty USA on Feb. 9, was to capture an overview of the current Twitter environment facing LGBTQ+ organizations and activists amidst the new changes since Musk’s ownership, including the firing of its Global Human Rights Team and a handful of its Trust and Safety staff, to name a few.
Musk himself has a history of homophobic online behavior, suggesting a gay former Twitter employee sexualized kids last year, amplifying homophobic right-wing conspiracies and asking the Twitter team to review its hateful conduct policy that says users can be penalized for “targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.”
Within Musk’s first full week as Twitter’s owner alone, there were “33,926 tweets and retweets mentioning the slur tra**y, up 53% on the 2022 average” and “21,903 tweets and retweets mentioning the slur fa**ot, up 39% on the 2022 average,” according to an analysis by the Center for Countering Digital Hate on Nov. 10, 2022.
“Twitter must do more to protect LGBTQ+ activists and organizations on the platform. Twitter considers itself a ‘common digital town square,’ yet it’s a town square where LGBTQ+ voices are all too often shouted down and silenced by constant hateful speech and harassment,” said Michael Kleinman, Senior Director of Technology and Human Rights at Amnesty International USA, in a press release from Thursday. “According to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, all companies have a responsibility to respect human rights – it’s disappointing, to say the least, to hear that the problem of hateful and abusive speech on Twitter is only getting worse.”
Contrary to the survey, Twitter’s Hateful conduct policy explicitly states that the platform prohibits abuse “on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.”
Out of nine respondents who took to reporting the abuse to Twitter, eight reported a lack of action on behalf of Twitter, be it mitigating or taking the reported content down. About 60% of all respondents said that hateful and abusive speech has affected their usage of the platform and 65% said that compared to other platforms they are actively on, Twitter has more hateful and abusive speech.
This week on Capitol Hill, former employees and individuals affiliated with Twitter testified in front of a House panel. Instead of discussing the issue of abuse and harassment on Twitter, Republicans claimed the platform to have political bias against conservatives, in which Democrats claimed the hearing to be a waste of time.
On Feb. 7, Musk tweeted “Going forward, Twitter will be broadly accepting of different values, rather than trying to impose its own specific values on the world,” unclear whether Twitter’s “different values” include the protection of its LGBTQ users.