60% of LGBTQ+ Organizations and Activists Surveyed Report an Increase in Abusive Speech Since Elon Musk’s Takeover as Twitter CEO
Twitter is failing to protect LGBTQ+ organizations and individuals that advocate for members of the LGBTQ+ community from online violence and abuse, according to a new survey from Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Further, harassment of LGBTQ+ activists has intensified since Elon Musk acquired Twitter in October 2022.
All respondents reported that they have encountered hateful and abusive speech on Twitter. 60% of survey respondents reported that they had experienced an increase in abusive and hateful speech on Twitter since Elon Musk took over as CEO. The other 40% reported that they had experienced the same level of abusive and hateful speech as before. None of the survey respondents reported a decrease in abusive and hateful speech.
The targeted survey included 11 LGBTQ+ organizations, as well as 9 high profile LGBTQ+ individuals who advocate on LGBTQ+ issues. The survey focused on select organizations and individuals with large Twitter followings, with 70% of respondents having at least 10,000 Twitter followers. The goal of the survey was to take a snapshot of the environment facing LGBTQ+ organizations and activists in the wake of significant changes at Twitter, including the company firing its Global Human Rights Team and many of its Trust and Safety staff, amongst others.
The survey included a series of questions asking respondents whether they experienced a change in the frequency of hateful and abusive speech on Twitter once Elon Musk become the company’s CEO, whether they reported hateful and abusive speech to the company, how such hateful and abusive speech impacted how they used the platform, and how their experience on Twitter compared to other social media platforms.
Nine of the respondents tried to report this abuse to Twitter – 88% (eight out of nine respondents) reported that Twitter took no action to mitigate or take down the reported content.
“GLAAD remains deeply concerned about the safety of LGBTQ+ people, and all marginalized people, on Twitter. GLAAD’s Social Media Safety Index, released in July, gave Twitter a 48 out of a possible 100 score, and Twitter remains an unsafe place for LGBTQ+ people. Misinformation, disinformation, and hateful content have real-world consequences, and irrevocably harm our community, period. All of our corporate, government, and community leaders have a responsibility to facilitate education, facts, and the truth, and to disempower those who actively work against those principles of democracy,” said a GLAAD spokesperson.
This problem was particularly acute among activists, with eight of nine activists surveyed reporting that harassment impacts how they use the platform (compared to four of eleven organizations reporting the same).
65% of all respondents said that there is more hateful and abusive speech on Twitter compared to other platforms they use. 15% of respondents said there was less hateful and abusive speech, and 20% said the amount of hateful and abusive speech was about the same on Twitter as compared to other platforms. Again, individual activists reported a more negative experience on Twitter, compared to organizations. Eight of nine activists reported more hateful and abusive speech on Twitter compared to other platforms, while five of eleven organizations reported the same.
Hateful and abusive speech also seems to have become more problematic at Twitter compared to other social media platforms since Elon Musk took over control of the company. 30% of all respondents reported that hateful and abusive speech has increased on other platforms (beyond Twitter) since October 2022, compared to 60% who reported an increase on Twitter. 30% (3 organizations and 3 activists) have also experienced an increase in offline violence, reporting more hateful and abusive speech, as well as protests, threats, harassment, and violence, since October 2022.
"When a powerful platform delivers hateful speech and has it in its control to stop it - then that platform and each and every individual in its leadership and employ, to include MUSK, are complicit - as if they are saying it directly out of their own mouths, with full awareness of the consequences. That said, hate speech and abuse leads directly to physical violence that ultimately leads to injury, death and forced displacement. We need more than stats - we need action!" Melanie Nathan, @AfricanHRC.org