LGBTQ Organizations Cite Sharp Increase in Twitter Harassment

Twitter has been relatively untouched by the latest changes in Silicon Valley, but that hasn’t stopped new owner Jack Dorsey from making his mark on the social network. In just his first week on the job, he restoredURLs, which lets users see all of their tweets in one place; reopened Twitter’s mental health support line; and announced a new feature to let people broadcast live video straight from their phones. He’s also made it clear that Twitter is still a platform for conversations, not just updates.

In a new study released by LGBTQ advocacy groups GLAAD, Amnesty International, and the Human Rights Campaign, they found that since Tesla CEO Elon Musk assumed leadership of Twitter as of August 1st, 2019, there has been a major change in the platform towards marginalized voices. While some users are still experiencing blatant discrimination and abuse on the platform overall – as was seen before Musk’s arrival – many LGBTQ users have noticed an increase awareness and love for their community. This shift seems to be especially profound for live streaming platforms like Periscope and Twitch; where viewers seem to be more attentive to the needs of queer creators than ever before.

The eight gay and lesbian groups surveyed reported experiencing more frequent abuse and hate speech following Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s takeover of the company in late October. However, none of the groups saw a decrease in targeted hate during the same time period. This data is consistent with other studies which have found that harassment toward LGBTQ individuals has not diminished since Donald Trump was elected president. In light of these findings, LGBTQ organizations are urging businesses to develop anti-discrimination policies and to publicly condemn hate speech.

As Twitter has played a dominant role in public discourse surrounding the resignation of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, his companies, and his recent tweets, it is unsurprising that there has been an increase in hate speech and harassment on the platform. However, while this appears to be predominately concentrated on Twitter, other social media platforms have also seen an increase in hateful content. This suggests that although smear campaigns against individuals are encouraged on social media platforms like Twitter for entertainment value or propagation of agenda-driven fake news narratives*, there may be a darker side to internet “trolling” as well – one which targets individuals for using hate speech or voicing racist opinions.

Twitter appeared to be in the grips of a reactionary purge by CEO Elon Musk, following his purchase of the company. After reversing many unpopular platform moderation decisions, including those involving LGBTQ users, Twitter appears to have been plunged into chaos. The survey only captures a snapshot of this chaotic landscape; it is unknown how much aggressive content moderation has returned following Musk’s takeover or whether rifts within the company have continued to grow.

Twitter’s decision to reinstate conservative academic Jordan Peterson and far-right website The Babylon Bee after they had previous tweets about transgender actor Elliot Page and U.S. health official Rachel Levine removed caused a mixed reaction online. Many people felt that the platforms decision not to punish these accounts for their transphobic messages was discriminatory, while others saw it as an example of free speech being upheld. Some people believe that Twitter is caving to political correctness, while others feel that allowing controversial voices on the platform ultimately makes it better overall.

Following the controversial comments of Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Twitter, a report published by GLAAD and Media Matters found an increase in the use of the word “grooming” on right-wing Twitter accounts. The report tracked a handful of popular accounts and found that after Musk’s October tweet containing a GIF depicting someone smoking cannabis, the term was used more than 90 times on his account. Prior to this tweet, Twitter classified the term as an anti-LGBTQ slur. This incident raises awareness about how protected marginalized communities are by social media platforms, and it shows how important it is for these platforms to take swift action against hate speech.

In the wake of a string of scandals, CEO Elon Musk is facing renewed criticism over his handling of personnel issues. One particular controversy centers around allegations of anti-LGBTQ harassment directed at Yoel Roth, former head of Trust and Safety on Twitter. Roth left the company in December due to vicious online bullying, and many have called for Musk to take responsibility for his role in inciting the abuse.

Although Twitter has removed vanishingly little of the hateful and inciting rhetoric directed at Leslie Jones, the star of the new film Ghostbusters, she was forced to leave her home and sell her car after receiving an endless barrage of homophobic and antisemitic threats. Roth attributes much of this harassment to a bogus meme that led directly to a wave of threatening messages.

The consequences of online harassment and speech can be serious. Harassing and negative speech towards people online can have a negative impact on their mental health, careers, and social lives. It can also cause physical harm when the harasser targets their victims with stalking or cyberbullying tactics. As we’ve seen over the past

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Dylan Williams

Dylan Williams is a multimedia storyteller with a background in video production and graphic design. He has a knack for finding and sharing unique and visually striking stories from around the world.

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