The perception that Musk won’t moderate has brought all the worst people out of the woodwork.
Elon Musk finally did it. He bought Twitter. And all the worst people online have come out to play. After the Tesla CEO announced that he bought the platform and “freed” the bird, accounts that had previously been banned, and some that were presumably created in anticipation of the sale, celebrated with a litany of racist and transphobic posts.
Right off the bat, far-right commentator and Daily Wire contributor Matt Walsh began encouraging his audience to misgender trans individuals.
Nor was Walsh subtle in his intentions or his view of the platform’s new state, saying:
“We have made huge strides against the trans agenda. In just a year we’ve recovered many years’ worth of ground conservatives had previously surrendered. The liberation of Twitter couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Now we can ramp up our efforts even more.”Matt Walsh, October 28th, 2022.
One user went further, posting, “Elon now controls Twitter. Unleash the racial slurs. K—S AND N—–S….I can freely express how much I hate n—–s … now, thank you, Elon…” Nor was this post an outlier. The Network Contagion Research Institute, a firm dedicated to online analysis of misinformation and the prevention of its spread, reported that in the 12 hours after Elon Musk acquired Twitter, the use of the N-word on the platform increased by 500 percent.
Such hate is only a taste of what can be expected with Musk’s control over the platform. It is unclear what Musk’s plans for the platform will be, and he has given vague explanations of his plans for moderating Twitter, suggesting that he would create a new moderating council to make suggested changes to Twitter’s policy.
But as it stands now, it is entirely uncertain what policies will be implemented. Without a substantive moderation policy for Twitter, the risk to marginalized people will inevitably increase. In an interview with the Washington Post, trans advocate and legislative researcher Erin Reed explained that after Musk took over that she “…almost immediately I noticed an increase in anti-trans harassment, it’s very visible…” and that “I’m seeing more people in comments with explicit threats, more misgendering, more harmful slurs. I’ve gotten pictures of me getting shot by a shotgun. It’s a pretty scary environment on Twitter right now…”
It is this environment that is precisely what makes social media companies like Twitter untenable. Without some element of moderation, harassment and death threats will inevitably follow. Anti-trans activists, Nazis, and other malicious actors will go after those they deem unacceptable. Unless something is done to ensure that marginalized voices are secured and protected, Twitter will be unsafe for marginalized people and everyone who attempts to hold the most virulent users accountable.