Antisemitism Surges On Twitter After Musk Purchase: Report

Racism and hate have always been a problem on the platform, but with layoffs and policy changes under its new CEO, a recent report is tracking the rise in antisemitism that has followed.

Peter Smith
Canadian Anti-Hate Network

Source: Unsplash

A new report studying how hate speech appears on Twitter is noting a swift boost in antisemitism after Elon Musk assumed control of the company. The results detail a bleak picture of moderation on the platform and a sudden rise of already pervasive racism and hate after the closure of the company’s Trust and Safety Council. 

Written by the Institute For Strategic Dialogue (ISD), “Antisemitism on Twitter Before and After Elon Musk’s Acquisition,” the analysis found that not only did the number of antisemitic tweets double after the sale in October 2022, but has continued at a sustained rate. 

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In total, analysts detected 325,739 English-language antisemitic Tweets over nine months from June 2022 to February 2023. The average number of antisemitic Tweets per week increased by 105% when comparing the period before and after Musk’s acquisition.

“The analysis showed the volume of antisemitic Tweets more than doubled after Musk’s acquisition,” the report says. “Between June and October 27, the weekly average of plausibly antisemitic Tweets was 6,204. From October 27 until February 9, the average was 12,762, an increase of 105%.”

Tweets found to be “plausibly antisemitic” required training language models to capture the sample. According to the report, this system has been shown to operate with a 76 per cent rate of accuracy.

Based on this criteria, between 1 June and 9 February 2023, researchers identified a total of 325,739 plausibly antisemitic Tweets sent from 146,516 accounts.

The data also shows an accompanying surge of new accounts posting antisemitic content. From October 27 to November 6, 3,855 of these accounts were created. This represents a total increase of 223% compared to the 11 days leading up to October 27.

The report also addressed claims from Musk that “hate Tweets will be max deboosted,” when data showed a very small decrease in the average levels of engagement or interaction with antisemitic Tweets before and after the takeover.

“Significantly, our research did find that Musk’s takeover of the platform around 12% of the plausibly antisemitic messages we identified are now inaccessible on the platform, compared to roughly 6% versus pre-takeover,” the report notes. 

Additionally, the research suggests that the current moderation efforts are not keeping up with the increased volume of hateful content on the platform, and accordingly are having a limited impact on the increasingly hateful environment on Twitter.

The modelling found a number of beliefs being perpetrated that included conspiracist content, often referring to Jewish control of ‘elites’, media and politics; antisemitic comments being made about “Zionist states” that referenced both Israel and Ukraine; support for recent antisemitic comments made by Kanye West; white nationalism, nativism and ethno-supremacism; and historical antisemitic tropes, including blaming Jews for the death of Jesus and use of the “fake Jews” conspiracy theory. 

The data used in this analysis was collected in two batches. The initial collection was performed on December 2, 2022, and included Tweets posted between June 1 to November 1. A second collection was performed on February 9, 2023 that extended this range from November 30, 2022 to February 9, 2023. 

Twitter’s email for press inquiries is currently set to auto-respond with a poop emoji. No other response to our requests for comment was received. 

Previous statistics released by ISD also show an uptick in new accounts affiliated with terror groups and others that Twitter previously banned. Only 12 days after Musk assumed control, 450 accounts associated with ISIS were created, up 69 percent from the previous 12 days.

Since Musk and a consortium of private investors closed a $44 billion deal to assume control of Twitter in 2022, several other reports have made note of the uptick in racist content and hate speech. The Anti-Defamation League published data on its Twitter account stating that there had been a 61.3% increase in the volume of tweets referencing “Jews” or “Judaism” with an antisemitic sentiment in the two weeks following Musk's Twitter takeover when compared to the two weeks prior.

In the weeks following Musk’s purchase, numerous suspended accounts were reinstated. Among these were United States politicians Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene as well as prominent public members of the far and radical right like Andrew Anglin, the founder and editor of the neo-Nazi website “The Daily Stormer;” Mark Collett, a UK “political figure” and racist conspiracy theorist; and very briefly American white nationalist Nick Fuentes. Other reinstated accounts include a prominent QAnon influencer, Andrew Tate, Tim "Baked Alaska" Gionet and more. 

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