In the hours following billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s takeover of the social network, an emboldened group of anonymous trolls posted racist slurs and Nazi memes on Twitter, igniting concerns that his promise of unrestrained free speech could ignite a fresh wave of online hatred.
One of the most obvious indications of how Twitter had altered in the first hours under Musk’s ownership was the onslaught of racist posts. The restoration of former president Donald Trump’s account and the firing of hundreds or maybe thousands of Twitter employees, however, will take longer than anticipated.
Musk stated on Friday that up to the appointment of a new “moderation council,” “no major content decisions or account reinstatements” would be made. Without providing any additional details regarding who would be on the council, how members would be chosen, what authority it would have, or whether its opinions would be binding on the company, he just stated that it would have “widely diverse viewpoints.”
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook’s parent company Meta, and Musk’s social media opponent, turned to an outside organization called as the Oversight Board to assess Facebook’s social media moderation judgments following years of public criticism of its choices. But it was unclear if Musk had a comparable agreement in mind.
Is Elon Musk ready to own Twitter?
Within hours, a variety of anonymous Twitter accounts appeared to have been inspired by Musk’s portrayal of himself as a “free speech absolutist” and his vehement criticism of the company’s previous leaders as being excessively rigid and suppressive to act as if his takeover meant the previous laws against bigotry did not apply.
One account, which was created this month, retweeted statements from Musk combined with antisemitic jokes and had a Nazi insignia as its profile image. More than 400 people liked a tweet that displayed a video montage that praised Nazi Germany and said, “I hear that there have been some changes around here.”
Anti-LGBTQ Twitter users started tweeting the “dead names” of well-known trans media professionals and misgendering prominent trans women in order to “test” Twitter’s new policies.
We're off to quite a start with groyper Nazi trolls feeling explicitly emboldened by Elon to threaten murder and use racist, anti Semitic, and homophobic slurs.— Alejandra Caraballo (@Esqueer_) October 28, 2022
I'm sure the advertisers are going to love having their ads next to this. pic.twitter.com/HfUNC4buO0
According to Musk, lifetime bans—including Trump’s—should be lifted because they damage Twitter’s reputation as a place for free speech. Even if he were invited back, Trump said he would remain on Truth Social, a smaller version of Twitter owned by his own company, telling Fox News on Friday that “I don’t think Twitter can be successful without me.”
Approximately 4 million people follow Trump’s Truth Social account, which is a small portion of the 88 million people who followed him at his Twitter high.