Since being taken over by Elon Musk, Twitter has become a toxic platform for the LGBTQ+ community
Just a day after Elon Musk reactivated his account, Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called me a “communist groomer.” An invective probably related to the fact that I am an elected Democrat, Jewish and gay from San Francisco.
In her tweet, Marjorie Taylor Greene also promotes her proposed federal legislation to ban gender-affirming treatments for transgender youth and make it impossible for transgender adults to access such care. In the past, when Marjorie Taylor Greene spoke to me with homophobic or transphobic remarks, I received each time a little more insult on social networks but this time the surge exceeded everything I knew until now. This climb is particularly violent afterwards the Q club massacre. A surge that can be attributed less to Marjorie Taylor Greene than to Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk.
Since taking over Twitter, Elon Musk has brought back several prominent personalities who were banned from the platform. Shortly before restoring Marjorie Taylor Greene’s account, she also activated the accounts of Donald Trump and Kanye West. (The latter has made headlines recently for making anti-Semitic statements.) Elon Musk also restored the Project Veritas accounts, which were involved in serious doxxing (that is, the disclosure of information on others in the public square), and James Lindsay , who popularized the hashtag “Ok Groomer” (a homophobic insult that can be translated into French as “Ok groomer”), is considered Joe McCarthy [un ancien sénateur républicain qui s’est fait connaître pour un discours sur les “ennemis de l’intérieur” dans lequel il affirme que “le Département d’Etat des Etats-Unis est infesté par des membres du Parti communiste”, NDLR] didn’t go too far and insulted a Jew with “Dr. Lampshade” (a reference to a Holocaust legend that Jewish skin was used to make lampshades). The new Twitter boss also reactivated Andrew Tate’s account. The latter said that rape victims are responsible for their hurt.
Now, Elon Musk is promising, based on a Twitter ‘poll’ reportedly conducted by extremist 4chan users, to reactivate any suspended account if it doesn’t break the law or openly generate spam. So, it can make it possible to put together a very good motley team. I’m thinking for example of Nick Fuentes, a white supremacist who said “Jews better start being nice to people like us because if not, everyone who comes here will be uglier and worse than them” . Or Milo Yiannopoulos, who worked closely with Nazi leaders and white supremacists, gave a Nazi salute and recently posted a message about “the Jewish powers that hate Jesus Christ, that hate our country and treat us all as disposable cattle according to their ‘holy’ book”. There are also endless numbers of lesser-known online insurgents, bigots, and stalkers. Since Donald Trump broke the law by inciting people to lead a violent uprising, Elon Musk’s threat of exclusion for anyone who “broke the law” seems limited.
With the collapse of Twitter, traces of our history may disappear
Although Twitter is only a small platform in the middle of the ocean of social networks, its evolution is still of great importance. Twitter is an incredibly important platform for our democracy. It is a space where ideas and information evolve, spread and emerge, resulting in a wider reception from the media and the public. Whether it’s politics, media, science, health, history, or any other field, Twitter has become the center of public discourse in the United States.
Make no mistake: restoring previously mentioned accounts will make Twitter more toxic than it already is. These people who were once banned from Twitter aren’t just harmless trolls. Many of them have engaged in aggressive campaigns of anti-Semitic, homophobic, transphobic or racist harassment. They do not hesitate to disclose personal information about others in the public square, they are purveyors of misinformation that incite violence or promote lies about vaccines. They instigated – and sometimes continue to do – insurrection. Their reinstatement only invalidates their past behavior. This confirms and reinforces their rhetoric as pillars of what Twitter will become.
This reunification effort led by Elon Musk appears to be guided by his strong belief that he is a “free speech absolutist”. Putting aside the fact that he has banned many progressive accounts that have the misfortune to forgive him – parody is one of the most powerful and important forms of free speech -, its absolutism on freedom of expression is really about the freedom to utter hate speech, harassment. behavior and incitement to violence. If we add to this the massive layoffs and departures within the teams responsible for content moderation on Twitter, the platform will quickly turn into the hell that Elon Musk says he wants to avoid.
If Twitter becomes a far-right cesspool – even if it’s just a watered-down version of what can be found on 4chan – its role as a democratizing host of global conversations will quickly crumble as the amazing people who don’t think like Nick Fuentes or other white supremacists and Nazis will run off the platform.
In recent years, I have received thousands of death threats, most of them on social networks. These threats are, in large part, a response to my work promoting civil rights for the LGBTQ+ community as well as my work to expand access to vaccines.
The threats and harassment began when I drafted legislation to repeal certain offenses that singled out people with HIV for harsh criminal treatment (offenses that do not apply to people with other serious infectious diseases). Threats and harassment on social media erupted as I drafted legislation – supported by law enforcement, civil rights organizations and victims’ groups – to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ youth listed on the California Sex Offender Registry . This law triggered a tidal wave following QAnon’s smear campaign, against me, describing me as a “pedophile” and a “groomer”. The threats and harassment continued as I drafted a bill to allow transgender children and their families to find sanctuary in California if they were criminalized in states seeking to ban gender reassignment treatment for those transgender youth, like Texas or Alabama, and when I pushed for legislation to allow teenagers to be vaccinated without parental consent to protect their own health.
The threats and harassment I have received on social media have been overwhelming. I was doxxed. I was repeatedly threatened with beheading and rape. They told me that they would search for me with a weapon. I received a letter with a bomb threat, which led the police to search my house with the help of a dog. Some threats have resulted in criminal prosecutions and convictions of their perpetrators. For the first time in my life, I had to testify in front of a jury – against a man who blamed me for my existence.
As I received outpourings of hate and death threats, I learned a lot about social media and how they handle the issue. YouTube is the slowest in responding to threats and harassment. Meta (mainly Instagram but also a little Facebook) was initially a little slow to act but the business has improved over time. Twitter has been the most reactive and the most active, but I am convinced that in the future, the platform will not be better than the others. On the contrary, I think it will be worse for people like me.
However, as bad as my experience was, I was one of the lucky ones. I am privileged because I have the means to defend myself. I have exposure and work that allows me to highlight this problem, as I do here through this forum.
Since Elon Musk took it over, Twitter has lost nearly a million users
The same cannot be said for the majority of people who have been threatened, stalked, harassed or whose personal information has been dumped on Twitter, or other social networks, and for whom things will only get worse as Elon Musk continues. in its maneuvers by allowing the vicious, fanatic. and even violent stalkers, Nazis and white supremacists return to the platform.
School board members, teachers and librarians have been targeted by extremists who say these educators are “preparing” their children to be transgender or teaching them critical race theory. The mailing addresses of progressive activists were posted online, along with family photos of community leaders. Public health workers are being harassed and threatened by anti-vax and anti-choice activists.
For every public figure like me who is harassed and threatened, there are thousands of other people who suffer in silence.
Elon Musk owns Twitter and has the power to shape the social network and change it. But Twitter is more than a private good. This is important for our democracy and our public discourse. And it’s important to know if people are safe on the platform. Elon Musk lives in an ivory tower. In fact, he is the richest man in the world. He has access to every possible resource imaginable – security, investigators or whatever he needs.
Most of us don’t have that resource. As Elon Musk plays his messy game on Twitter, we suffer the consequences.
Tribune by Scott Wiener, translated from English by Kozi Pastakia. Scott Wiener is a California State Senator representing San Francisco and Northern San Mateo County.
Does Twitter have weeks to live?