SAN JOSE – The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office says it is leaving Twitter amid an “explosion of hate speech” on the popular social media platform under new owner Elon Musk.
The office’s account, which has 4,520 followers, is set to be deactivated Tuesday.
“As Americans, we have the freedom to loudly express our political opinions and strongly disagree with each other,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement Monday. “However, when that speech crosses the line into hatred, racism and anti-Semitism, all of our precious and hard fought freedoms are undermined and our democracy is weakened. Every American has a moral obligation to fight against hate speech. There are many ways to do that, large and small. Here’s one way: Quit Twitter. My office – the largest prosecutor’s office in Northern California – is quitting Twitter.”
Rosen said there has been a “proliferation of extremist posts” on the platform. The surge in harmful content has been traced in part to Musk’s decision to fire thousands of content moderators, as well as the reinstatement of previously banned accounts.
“Many of these handles were previously banned by Twitter because they spread hatred and bigotry. Now they are back. That is not free speech. It is a cynical marketing strategy,” Rosen said.
“Mr. Musk is hiding behind the curtain of being a defender of balanced public dialogue. Yet he himself has used Twitter to spread hatred and bigotry,” Rosen said, referring to an anti-Semitic meme Musk reportedly posted but later deleted. “If anti-Semitism is okay, then so is homophobia, misogyny and racism. That may help Mr. Musk make money. But it can erode our democracy and destroy our country by dividing Americans against each other.”
In November, Musk claimed that hate speech impressions, or the number of times a tweet containing hate speech has been viewed, had plummeted on Twitter, CNN reported. However, studies from the Anti-Defamation League and the Center for Countering Digital Hate showed the opposite was true. The latter watchdog group, for example, found daily use of the n-word under Musk is triple the 2022 average.
According to a Montclair State University study, the use of hate speech terms increased immediately on Twitter in the hours following Musk’s acquisition of the platform.
The study examined a range of vulgar and hostile terms for individuals based on race, religion ethnicity and sexual orientation. The seven-day average of tweets using the studied terms prior to Musk’s acquisition was never higher than 84 times per hour. But on Oct. 28 from midnight to noon immediately following the acquisition, the hate speech was tweeted nearly 4,780 times, according to the study.
“The idea of reducing moderation on social media has always led to the spread of hate and conspiracies,” Bond Benton, a Montclair professor who contributed to the study and researches online extremism, said in a statement. “This is particularly dangerous to young people on platforms.”
Rosen called on other district attorneys will join his office in leaving the platform.
“I ask other district attorneys around our nation to join me in standing against hatred and bigotry by leaving Twitter,” Rosen said. “We proudly represent the people, all of them. As American prosecutors, we speak with one voice – against crime, violence, greed, and hatred. We don’t need 280 characters or a billionaire’s app to say, ‘Bigotry has no home in the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ ”
The district attorney’s office plans to continue posting content on its website and Facebook page.
Check back for updates.