I already get racist abuse on Twitter – I worry about Musk’s takeover

    One user recently caused a pile-on upon me and encouraged his followers to send me abuse (Picture: REUTERS)

    So that’s that then.

    Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, after much legal toing and froing, is finally complete, and many people genuinely believe the Tesla CEO could be the saviour of the platform.

    The multi-billionaire turned up at Twitter HQ in San Francisco earlier this week and, true to his dad-joke sense of humour, carried in a kitchen sink and tweeted: ‘Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in!’

    The Tesla CEO has said the social media site needs massive changes. It’s no secret that he’s planning major job cuts and will implement his policy of free-speech first, though sought to reassure major advertisers that Twitter won’t become a ‘free-for-all hellscape.’

    Personally, I’m not convinced – and I’m speaking from bitter experience.

    Not least because among the first casualties of Musk’s clearout was reportedly top executive Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of Safety, Trust, and Legal Policy.

    Firings like these are just one of the reasons I’m concerned because Twitter does not today, nor has it ever felt like a platform where people cannot say what they want. Even though there are rules in place, meant to discourage hate speech, trolls abound on Twitter. 

    So, if Musk thinks there is not enough free speech on social media, he’s very much mistaken. 

    Whenever I dare to speak up on TV to defend Meghan Markle, or call for systemic changes in the Metropolitan Police, or write a Metro.co.uk column about the historical brutal actions of the British Empire, I am inundated with abusive messages and tweets.

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    Usually, these offensive messages are from users with an England flag in their bio and follow the ‘first name and a bunch of numbers’ username template. 

    The abuse ranges from people calling me a puppet, an idiot, a fool, to more vicious ones that tell me to kill myself. 

    And that’s without even mentioning the racist direct messages using slurs too offensive to repeat here.

    While I presume that the bulk of those users are white, I also get people of colour labelling me things like ‘Uncle Tom’ on Twitter when they think I haven’t, for example, defended Meghan Markle aggressively enough or if I laugh at a comment from one of my colleagues they find disagreeable. 

    One user recently caused a pile-on upon me and encouraged his followers to send me abuse because he took issue with my opinion that Meghan and Prince Harry are sometimes at fault for how they’re perceived.

    I duly reported the user account but Twitter failed to find him labelling me a ‘c**n’ (a disparaging term about a Black person) offensive enough to take any action despite their terms clearly stating: ‘You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin.’

    If Musk thinks there is not enough free speech on social media, he’s very much mistaken

    At the time, Twitter didn’t even temporarily ban that person, and now we read that Musk plans to get rid of permanent bans altogether.

    That spells good news for Donald Trump, who will apparently be welcomed back to the platform after being suspended. 

    For me, the treatment of Trump, and that of Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, shows just how Twitter, even before the Musk takeover, had inconsistent policies. 

    Ye was temporarily suspended from the platform for his recent anti-Semitic posts, while Trump was banned indefinitely after being seen to have incited violence following the Capitol Riot in Washington DC.  

    But what is the difference between the two men? They both tweeted offensive lies as facts, but only President Trump was given the boot.

    Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is notorious for using his Twitter accounts to incite hate, violence and Holocaust denial. 

    For many of us, Twitter is already a very toxic space due to the inaction of the company to ban outright those abusive users, from celebrities and leaders, to the people who hide behind their anonymity. 

    As news sites tweeted out the announcement of the Musk takeover I saw many replies in the comments welcoming in the new era of freedom by posting hate speech.

    ‘I can freely express how much I hate n****s now, thank you Elon’ and ‘N****s f****ts Jewish media kill kill kill’ were just two I was confronted with. 

    Women too are targeted with vile abuse – you don’t need to look far to find the sexist and misogynistic comments they receive on a daily basis. 

    Twitter is aware of the problem, and they previously admitted that they aren’t doing enough to stop abuse, with Dick Costolo, then-CEO, writing in 2015: ‘We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years.’

    I couldn’t have put it better myself – they do suck at dealing with abuse.

    And with a new CEO, Elon Musk, and his plan to allow unmoderated free speech on Twitter, I don’t think users will find themselves better informed.

    In fact it will likely increase ignorance, misinformation and embolden the sexists, racists and anti-Semites to spew their hatred even more.

    Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing Ross.Mccafferty@metro.co.uk. 

    Share your views in the comments below.

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