Since Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter on October 27, a tweet from the billionaire declaring that “the blue bird [était] released”, many users threatened to leave the social network to show their dissatisfaction. Threats are often made but rarely come true. However, this time, new data suggests that a significant number of tweets left the platform.
Bot Sentinel, which studies unusual behavior on Twitter by analyzing more than 3.1 million accounts and their daily activity, estimates that around 877,000 accounts have been deactivated and one another 497,000 were suspended between October 27 and October 1. November 2022. This is more than double the numbers normally observed. “We’ve seen an increase in people deactivating their accounts and Twitter actions to suspend certain profiles,” said Christopher Bouzy, founder of Bot Sentinel.
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Christopher Bouzy obtained these numbers by analyzing and analyzing the proportion of users who have deleted their accounts or been suspended by Twitter since Elon Musk took over the social network among those surveyed by Bot Sentinel. Its teams then applied this percentage to the entire Twitter community, which currently stands at nearly 237 million “active and profitable daily” tweets.
From October 27 to November 1, Bot Sentinel found that 11,535 company-monitored accounts were deactivated. In other words, these people chose to delete their account on purpose. In addition, 6,824 accounts were suspended – this is what happens when Twitter actively removes accounts for inactivity, violation of the platform’s rules of use or even because they are fake accounts. This represents approximately 0.59% of the accounts monitored by Bot Sentinel. By comparison, a week before Elon Musk took over the platform, only 5,958 accounts were deactivated or suspended. Therefore, this suggests a 208% increase in the number of profile loss in the days following this acquisition.
Manoel Ribeiro, an academic from EPFL in Lausanne (Switzerland) who studies niche communities on the Internet – such as the alt-right – and how they are affected by moderation policies and algorithms, agrees- according to Bot Sentinel. “In fact, it seems that many Internet users are trying to switch to other platforms like Mastodon,” he said.
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Neither Twitter nor Elon Musk have yet responded to requests from MIT Technology Review.
Another study conducted by the research group Network Contagion Research Institute shows that the use of the “N-word” on Twitter increased by almost 500% in the 12 hours following the announcement of the acquisition of bluebird by Elon Musk. In addition, various examples of “copypasta” (blocks of text copied and pasted on digital platforms with the intention of trolling or spamming) are published with impunity.
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The rise in hate speech comes as the company freezes access to content moderation tools for much of its trust and safety team. According to Bloomberg, only 15 people have access to tools that allow them to delete messages when it would normally take 100 to have this power. Yoel Roth, head of security and integrity at Twitter, clarified on the social network that this measure was planned during the company’s transition process to “reduce the possibility of insider risk”. “The platform also has automated moderation tools that work alongside human moderators,” Manoel Ribeiro pointed out.
For Savvas Zannettou, assistant professor at Delft University of Technology and core member of the iDRAMA Lab, a multi-institutional research group that analyzes fringe online communities, this phenomenon is the first indication of a larger problem . for Twitter. “I think this is the first chapter of a massive exodus from the platform,” he said. “I think when the new Twitter starts rolling out with its changes, we’ll probably see more departures.”
Christopher Bouzy also believes that the hostile environment on Twitter will promote user attrition in the long run. “I think if users continue to deactivate their account en masse, it will be a big problem for the platform,” he pointed out. “If people on the left and those from minorities leave the social network, Twitter is no different from Parler or Truth Social (two social networks popular on the extreme right, which promote freedom of expression and show their itself as alternatives to common platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, Ed)”.
Article by Chris Stokel-Walker, translated from English by Kozi Pastakia.
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