New research from the Joetta Di Bella and Fred C. Sautter III Center for Strategic Communication at Montclair State University shows that in the hours following Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, the use of hate speech terms increased immediately on the social media platform.
Looking at Twitter data between October 22 and October 28, using the Tweetbinder analytics program, the study examined a range of vulgar and hostile terms for individuals based on race, religion, ethnicity and orientation. The seven-day average of Tweets using the studied hate terms prior to Musk’s acquisition was never higher than 84 times per hour. However, on October 28 from midnight to noon (immediately following Musk’s acquisition), the studied hate speech was Tweeted some 4,778 times.
Tweetbinder’s sentiment analysis tool, which measures positive or negative tone in Tweets, was also utilized to assess potential hostility in the collected data.
The study, available to read in full, suggests that certain users were celebrating a reduction in perceived speech constraints on the platform. The data conclusively shows that there is correlation between Musk’s arrival and a broader perceived acceptability to posted hostile content on Twitter.
“The idea of reducing moderation on social media has always led to the spread of hate and conspiracies. This is particularly dangerous to young people on platforms,” said Bond Benton, a Montclair professor who contributed to this study and researches online extremism.
Highlights from the Montclair study on Twitter hate speech:
- The seven-day average of Tweets using the studied hate terms prior to Musk’s acquisition was never higher than 84 times per hour.
- On October 28 from midnight to noon (immediately following Musk’s acquisition), the studied hate speech was Tweeted some 4,778 times.
- Terms studied included vulgar and hostile terms for individuals based on race, religion, ethnicity and orientation.
- The potential impact of this hate speech (the potential number of times a term posted in Twitter could have been viewed) was more than 3 million.
- Elon Musk has promised to reduce restrictions on the platform and “free the bird.” From these results, this directive represents an obvious danger to young people using the platform.
- Platforms with lax or no moderation are frequently spaces filled with racism, homophobia, transphobia and antisemitism.
The study was conducted by faculty Jin-A Choi, Bond Benton, Yi Luo, and Keith Green from the Joetta Di Bella and Fred C. Sautter III Center for Strategic Communication, located within the School of Communication and Media. The Center provides social media analytics tools and training for faculty and students for classroom learning and research projects.
For more information or to set up an interview, contact the Media Relations team at Montclair State University.