Antisemitism 'higher than ever' on Twitter, finds report

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The twitter logo on a phone. Copyright Matt Slocum/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Joshua Askew
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Hateful content against Jewish people not only spiked after Elon Musk’s takeover, it has remained elevated ever since, claims the study.

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Antisemitism remains "higher than ever" on Twitter, according to a new report. 

The study by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and CASM Technology found that hostile and discriminatory content towards Jewish people not only spiked after Elon Musk's takeover, but has remained at heightened levels ever since. 

Billionaire Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion in October, promising to loosen restrictions on the freedom of speech, particularly by reducing content moderation and allowing banned accounts back. 

The changes have been controversial, with some worried about the platform descending into a "hellscape" filled with toxic, inflammatory content and misinformation.

However, Musk previously announced a policy to combat hateful content. 

The report -- claiming to be the first to demonstrate a "persistent and notable elevation" of antisemitism on Twitter -- found that the volume of English-language antisemitic tweets more than doubled in the period following Musk’s takeover.

Using hate speech detection methodology combining over twenty machine-learning models, it detected a total of 325,739 antisemitic tweets in English in the 6 months from June 2022 to February 2023.

In November, Musk said hate tweets would be "deboosted" and "demonetised" on the platform, which is used by 450 million users monthly. 

“New Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach,” he tweeted.

“Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter. You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically seek it out, which is no different from rest of Internet,” he added. 

Despite Musk's pledge, the report revealed that antisemitic accounts were created at more than tripled the rate in the period after his takeover.

Engagement with antisemitic content on Twitter also remained steady.

The content of these tweets reflected a "broad spectrum" of content, according to the report's authors. 

This included "conspiracy theories referring to Jewish control of finance, media and politics, overt support for antisemitic comments made by public figures such as Kanye West, and the promotion of overtly and profoundly racist white supremacy."

Under Twitter guidelines, users are prohibited from spreading hateful content, with the platform saying its rules "ensure all people can participate in the public conversation freely and safely."

Its website reads: "You may not attack other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease."

The report added that the removal of antisemitic content on Twitter appears to have increased since the October deal, but this increase has "not kept pace" with the absolute increase. 

In March, the EU told Twitter to hire more human content moderators, amid concerns about a rise in illegal content.

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