Twitter Fails to Remove Hate Speech by Blue-Check Users: Report

Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast
Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

Twitter is failing to remove 99 percent of hate speech posted by Twitter Blue users, new research has found, and instead may be boosting paid accounts that spew racism and homophobia.

Researchers at the Center For Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) flagged hate speech to the company in tweets from 100 Twitter Blue subscribers. Four days later, they say, 99 percent of the tweets were still up and none of the accounts had been removed.

The tweets, which included examples of neo-Nazism, antisemitism, racism, and homophobia, violate Twitter’s own hate speech policies, the researchers say. The tweets reported by the CCDH included a post claiming “Hitler was right,” accompanied by a video montage of the dictator, and another saying LGBT activists needed “IRON IN THEIR DIET. Preferably from a #AFiringSquad.”

Elon Musk’s Twitter Makes Millions Off Anti-LGBT ‘Groomer’ Tweets: Report

Twitter’s hateful content policy, updated as recently as April 2023, outlines that: “You may not directly 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 tweets found by the CCDH “clearly violate the platform's policies,” researchers wrote.

Twitter Blue, a paid verification service that allows anyone to get a “blue tick” badge next to their username on the platform for only $8 a month, was rolled out in December 2022. Last month, Twitter’s then-CEO Elon Musk announced that these verified accounts would be prioritized as part of Twitter’s algorithm, meaning they are more likely to be seen by users on the platform.

Paying subscribers receive “prioritized rankings in conversations and search,” according to Twitter’s own website. The company promises paid users: “Tweets that you interact with will receive a small boost in their ranking. Additionally, your replies will receive a boost that ranks them closer to the top.”

CCDH researchers say they found Twitter Blue users in their samples appeared to be “given priority” in threads. “In one example of a thread containing almost 100 tweets from non-verified users, the top-ranked reply was from a Twitter Blue user calling for violence against Migrants,” they wrote.

“What gives blue tick hate actors confidence to spew their bile is the knowledge that Elon Musk simply doesn’t care about the civil and human rights of Black people, Jews, Muslims and LGBTQ+ people, as long as he can make his 8 bucks a month,” Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the CCDH, said in a statement to The Daily Beast, “Our society has benefited from decades of progress on tolerance, but Elon Musk is undoing those norms at an ever-accelerating rate, by allowing hate to prosper on the spaces he administers, all with the tacit approval of the advertisers who remain on his platform.”

Previous research from the CCDH found that under Elon Musk’s leadership of Twitter, tweets linking LGBT people to “grooming” skyrocketed, jumping 119 percent between Musk’s takeover in October 2022 and March 2023. The study found that five high-profile Twitter accounts responsible for consistently linking LGBT to “grooming” were set to generate $6.4 million a year in advertising revenue for Twitter.

The Daily Beast reached out to Twitter for comment, and received only a poop emoji in response.

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