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Rise in Violence Accompanies Rise in Hate Speech on Twitter

Rise in Violence Accompanies Rise in Hate Speech on Twitter

Person holding a gun in an image to the left, to the right, there is a person on a computer with words in bubbles like "idiot" and "loser"

Hateful remarks against LGBTQ+ people and Jews have become more common on Twitter since Elon Musk took over.

Hate speech has consequences.

A rise in anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-Semitic commentary on Twitter has correlated with an increase in physical attacks, according to a study by the Network Contagion Research Institute, which it shared with The Washington Post prior to publication.

Correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation, but the research “suggests a connection between real-world incidents and variations of the word ‘groomer,’ often aimed at gays and suggesting that they are adults bent on seducing children,” the Post reports.

Twitter had banned use of “groomer” before Elon Musk took over the company last fall, but it now allows it, and its use has jumped, especially after incidents such as the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs. Musk has also reduced moderation of hate speech on the platform.

“In the past three to four months, we have seen an increase in anti-LGBTQ incidents, and you can see a statistical correlation between these real-world incidents and the increased use of the term ‘groomer’ on Twitter,” Network Contagion analyst Alexander Reid Ross told the Post, without making a causal connection.

There were more than 4,000 tweets a day in late November that used some variant of “groomer,” the biggest recent uptick, and it came just before seven antigay attacks were reported, Ross said.

Hate speech should be scrutinized whether it comes before or after violent incidents, Ross said. It is “feeding into this highly pressurized, toxic discourse that condemns the victims and thus justifies further activity,” he said.

A huge source of anti-LGBTQ+ remarks has been Libs of TikTok, which often uses the “groomer” slur. The account was sometimes suspended for a week or saw individual tweets deleted before Musk acquired Twitter, but since then it has not been suspended. Libs of TikTok, maintained by Chaya Raichik, has frequently targeted hospitals that offer gender-affirming care as well as drag shows. Physical attacks and threats against these institutions and events have followed in some cases.

Much anti-Semitic rhetoric has come from rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, who Musk briefly allowed back on Twitter recently (he has now been suspended). One of Ye’s tweets upon returning to Twitter was “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE.”

Perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks have often invoked Ye, the Post notes. A man who attacked another in New York City’s Central Park in December yelled “Kanye 2024” and made anti-Semitic remarks, and “Kanye was rite” was spray-painted on markers in a Jewish cemetery in Illinois in November, along with swastikas.

“It’s certainly very jarring. It’s very sad to see this thing that so many of us cared for and built being decimated piece by piece,” former Twitter employee Rumman Chowdhury told the Post. “It’s very hard to see where it’s headed and how bad it’s becoming.”

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