A Study Found Hate Speech in Tweets, so Elon Musk Punishes the Researchers

Source: Pat Nabong / Gonzalo Fuentes

A small nonprofit organization recently submitted a report showing a massive amount of what qualifies as hate speech on Elon Musk’s platform X, formerly Twitter. Instead of addressing the problem, Musk tried to sue the nonprofit. Let’s see why Musk is taking this particular situation so hard.

Not a New Phenomenon

Some sources state that Twitter became a hive of hate speech when Elon Musk took over the platform. Before that, Twitter was still toxic, but it limited the amount of speech on the right side of the political spectrum.

Source: Flickr/SAJV CSAJ

Until now, the idea that hate speech was prevalent on Twitter wasn’t backed up by evidence. The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) recently published evidence that showed an increase in hate speech.

X Sues The Researchers

When the results were delivered, Musk and his company took the researchers to court, citing that they accessed X’s data illegally and cherry-picked the tweets to show an increase in hate speech.

Source: Flickr/Susan von Struensee

Musk also stated that the Washington DC nonprofit group wasn’t a research group; instead, it was made up of activists representing themselves as a research group.

The Lawsuit Is Tossed Out

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer said that the case had no grounds and ruled in favor of the CCDH to have the matter summarily dismissed from court.

Source: Flickr/Flic Pics

While an attorney for Musk’s corporation didn’t comment on the dismissal, information suggests they are considering an appeal.

Musk Considers Himself a Free-Speech Absolutist

When Musk took over the platform, he immediately let anyone say whatever they wanted about any topic. As a free-speech absolutist, he wanted everyone’s views to be aired.

Source: Flickr/Newtown grafitti’

This is entirely opposite to how Twitter was previously run. Many right-wing voices were shut down in favor of a “safe space” for left-wing ideas. Musk’s changes caused an uproar among users.

Many Accounts Unbanned

One of Musk’s first actions was to unban many accounts that he considered banned for ideological reasons. Immediately, the primarily left-leaning user base erupted in cries of hate speech.

Source: Flickr/Donika Sadiku

Yet hate speech by itself is a difficult thing to define and has a lot of connotations of censorship. By definition, only the offended can state what hate speech is, allowing casual criticism to be banned.

A Conclusion Without Any Review

Research into the company’s study methodology and results gave no solid grasp of how they came up with what they claimed about Musk’s platform. No numbers were stated to back up conclusions.

Source: Flickr/Todd Chandler

While this by itself doesn’t highlight any wrongdoing by the researchers, it does lend credence to Musk’s statement that the nonprofit is an activist group, not a research organization.

Press Coverage Runs Rampant

On the announcement of the group’s findings, many outlets jumped on it as a means of “proving” that Musk’s platform was supporting and presenting hate speech.

Source: Flickr/Daniel X. O’Neil

Unfortunately, it seems that none of the outlets asked for or obtained the actual research information. Musk’s lawyers’ attempt to take the matter to court seemed to have pushed the organization to release its methodology.

A Call for Advertiser Boycotts

The recent post that led to Twitter taking the company to court stated that the CCDH reported a handful of accounts, and when no action was taken, they immediately decried it as supporting hate speech.

Source: Flickr/FunGi_ (Trading)

This led to the CCDH calling for all advertisers to abandon the platform because of hate speech, according to the organization’s definition of the term. Nowhere in the post is the study methodology mentioned.

Censorship and Hate Speech Are Prickly Topics

How does one know what to censor? How does one define hate speech? Where does one draw the line between hate speech and valid criticism? Both sides of the political mire in the US can’t agree on where that line lies.

Source: Flickr/Rebecca Barray

The debate on censorship goes hand in hand with the discussion of hate speech. Freedom of speech allows for all ideas to be heard, no matter how bad they are. They rely on the person to draw their own conclusions.

Teaching Ideology Over Critical Thought

Musk’s approach was to let as much speech as possible filter into the platform and allow people to make up their own minds. The problem was that most people didn’t have a non-partisan view of the world.

Source: Flickr/Kevin Galens

People tended to choose to believe what they wanted to consider based on their ideological slant. As most of Twitter’s users leaned left, it meant that anything disagreeing with their ideology would be tagged “hate speech.”

Emotional Responses Don’t Help

Musk’s position as the “bastion of free speech” is also questionable. While he seems to promote open discussion on the platform, he’s occasionally been guilty of banning or censoring left-leaning voices.

Source: Flickr/Weasel:thephotoweblogcontinues

Censorship mostly comes from his personal interactions with these individuals. Ideology might play a part, but most often, it’s an emotional response to something they did or said.

Should People Be Allowed to Say What They Want?

The free-speech/hate-speech debate has been ongoing since modern society became a thing. A private company like Twitter is not a governmental platform; they can censor who they choose.

Source: Flickr/Mira (on the wall)

However, if a study is to be conducted on hate speech on Twitter, it should have a solid definition of the term and a massive sample size to ensure there is no bias.

Twitter As A Public Forum Space

Musk sees Twitter as an open forum where people can voice their ideas and discuss them with others. Unfortunately, that usually means that people say some things the platform doesn’t agree with.

Source: Flickr/Dystopos

It would be ridiculous to expect a platform with millions of users to find and remove offending tweets as they appear immediately. Even with reports coming in, there just isn’t enough staff to deal with them all.

What is the Solution?

Can there be a solution for hate speech? Censorship from either side of the political spectrum is not the way forward. Banning people from saying things simply drives the hate underground.

Source: Flickr/Matt Wynn

Dealing with hate speech means addressing the feelings underneath it. Even if the study was correct in its assumptions, it doesn’t address the source of that hate speech. It simply highlights a problem common to all social media platforms.

What do you think?

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Sally Reed

Written by Sally Reed

Sally, a dynamic and viral writer, has taken the literary world by storm with her exceptional storytelling prowess. With an uncanny ability to tap into the collective consciousness of her readers, she crafts narratives that resonate deeply and linger long after the last word is read.

Born with a creative spirit, Sally honed her writing skills from a young age, cultivating a unique voice that blends emotion, wit, and social insight. Her work spans a wide spectrum, from poignant short stories that tug at the heartstrings to thought-provoking essays that challenge conventional thinking.

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