A prominent House Democrat raising concerns about hate speech on Twitter received a terse response Thursday directly from Twitter CEO Elon Musk.
Singling out “Elon Musk’s Twitter,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) shared statistics showing a rise in “slurs” against black people, women, Jewish people, and gay men. “These numbers are abysmal – and unacceptable,” Schiff said in a tweet, adding that he and Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) were “demanding action” in response to the numbers.
Musk replied to the tweet hours later. “False, hate speech impressions are actually down by 1/3 for Twitter now vs prior to acquisition,” Musk retorted.
False, hate speech impressions are actually down by 1/3 for Twitter now vs prior to acquisition @CommunityNotes
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 8, 2022
Musk also tagged Community Notes, a feature previously called Birdwatch, which allows crowd-sourced notes meant to counter misleading information to be affixed to tweets.
Community Notes ftw @elonmusk pic.twitter.com/8R4bcVd7HS
— Johnna Crider (@JohnnaCrider1) December 8, 2022
Since the Telsa and SpaceX boss completed his $44 billion purchase of Twitter in late October, Musk has pledged negative and hate tweets would be “max deboosted & demonetized.” He claimed on November 23 that hate speech impressions were down by a third from “pre-spike levels,” but groups that study online platforms claim there has been a spike in slurs against marginalized groups in recent weeks.
Hate speech impressions down by 1/3 from pre-spike levels. Congrats to Twitter team! pic.twitter.com/5BWaQoIlip
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 24, 2022
The New York Times published a report earlier this month about researchers warning of an unprecedented surge in hate speech since Musk took over Twitter. This same report acknowledged a “relatively small” number of slurs posted per day — numbers in the low thousands — but otherwise focused on these groups raising the alarm and Twitter’s struggle to reassure concerned advertisers.
The newspaper posted the report on Twitter, noting their findings and featuring a quote from Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, saying the new Twitter CEO “sent up the Bat Signal to every kind of racist, misogynist and homophobe that Twitter was open for business.” Musk responded to the tweet, saying, “Utterly false.”
In a letter to Musk, dated Thursday, Schiff and Takano cited the findings by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit operation, and asked four questions about specific measures Twitter is taking to fight hate speech.
“With rapidly changing and unclear policies on content moderation on Twitter, amid documented negative trends and public evidence, we are concerned about the individual and community harm arising from Twitter, including how that could spill from online into real life,” the members wrote. “We are seeking further information about your plans for content moderation and the capability of your workforce to implement and enforce your policies.”