Elon Musk’s First Day at Twitter: N-Word and Pro-Nazi Tweets Go Unchecked – at Least for Now

Elon Musk’s first day as Twitter’s new owner caused concern among many on social media, as hate speech against Black and Jewish people went unchecked, just as media watchdog groups had feared.

On Thursday night, the billionaire tweeted “the bird is freed,” while also telling advertisers he did not want the platform to turn into a “free-for-all hellscape.” But as Friday rolled out, there was a noticeable difference in what was now allowed on the platform. A tweet with a Swastika-heavy, pro-Hitler video and the caption, “I hear that there have been some changes around here,” was still up on Friday morning and had more than 800 likes.

After articles by the New York Times and Washington Post about the surge in hate speech and concerns about the lack of moderation amid staff cuts, Musk tweeted on Friday, “Twitter will be forming a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints. No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes.”

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Alejandra Caraballo of the Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic rounded up several tweets that would have been banned prior to Musk’s regime. One tweet said, “Elon now controls Twitter. Unleash the racial slurs. K—S AND N—–S,” unleashing antisemitic and Black slurs. Another wrote, “I can freely express how much I hate n—s now, thank you, Elon.” While another wrote, “Killing n—s” multiple times, and still others threatened violence against Black people and to the “Jewish media.”

“From the beginning, Elon Musk wanted Twitter as a tool to advance his own red-pilled ideological agenda. He was explicit about his intentions to turn Twitter into a free-for-all, which is why right-wing extremists celebrated the news then — and why they are celebrating now today,” said Angela Carusone, president of nonprofit media watchdog Media Matters for America in a statement shared with TheWrap.

She added that it was “only a matter of time” before Musk “rolls back Twitter’s community standards, fires employees responsible for protecting users’ safety, and re-platforms Donald Trump and other accounts suspended for violence and abuse, and open[s] the floodgates of disinformation. … Twitter is now on a glide path to becoming a supercharged engine of radicalization. Under Musk’s leadership, Twitter will become a fever swamp of dangerous conspiracy theories, partisan chicanery, and operationalized harassment. The fact that this is happening just days before millions of Americans head to the polls is deeply concerning.”

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Carusone’s full statement:

“Elon Musk’s acquisition and subsequent running of Twitter will radically transform the current information landscape in much the same way that the emergence of Fox News changed the information landscape back in the late ‘90s — and we will all be worse off for it.

“Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes used Fox News as a foothold for right-wing misinformation on cable and as a cudgel against the rest of the news media. They worked the refs elsewhere and forced the rest of the news media to privilege right-wing propaganda. Musk sees the current landscape in a similar way.

“From the beginning, Elon Musk wanted Twitter as a tool to advance his own red-pilled ideological agenda. He was explicit about his intentions to turn Twitter into a free-for-all, which is why right-wing extremists celebrated the news then — and why they are celebrating now today.

“It is only a matter of time before Musk rolls back Twitter’s community standards, fires employees responsible for protecting users’ safety, and re-platforms Donald Trump and other accounts suspended for violence and abuse, and open the floodgates of disinformation. 

“Simply put: Twitter is now on a glide path to becoming a supercharged engine of radicalization. Under Musk’s leadership, Twitter will become a fever swamp of dangerous conspiracy theories, partisan chicanery, and operationalized harassment. 

“The fact that this is happening just days before millions of Americans head to the polls is deeply concerning.”

In his Thursday night statement about Musk’s acquisition, ADL president Jonathan Greenblatt wrote he was “cautiously optimistic” about the new billionaire owner, but was still concerned about the platform’s potential for hate speech: “As with Telegram, Gab, Parler, Rumble, and other platforms that refuse to address incitement and slander in the name of free speech, such platforms have become hotbeds for radicalism and hate.”

On Friday evening, General Motors issued a statement that it was “pausing” ads on Twitter for the time being. “We are engaging with Twitter to understand the direction of the platform under their new ownership. As is normal course of business with a significant change in a media platform, we have temporarily paused our paid advertising,” the company said.

Dan Ives, tech analyst for Wedbush Securities, told CNN on Friday that he expects more companies to follow suit. “It sends an ominous signal. GM is the first, but it’s not going to be the only one. We have to wait and see if there’s a wave. On the day that Musk closes the deal, it’s not the news he wanted to hear.

Carusone echoed his concerns in her statement, “What comes next is up to the major brands and their media buyers who spend billions each year advertising on Twitter. Companies like Unilever, HBO, Disney, Verizon, Comcast, Coca-Cola, and Procter & Gamble should be proactive and make it clear that they will walk if Musk follows through with his promises to roll back brand safety and community safeguards.”

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