But first, I need to explain how we got here.
The Musk meeting came on the heels of an extremely busy week. Last Thursday, Free Press released a major new report, Empty Promises, which exposes how social-media platforms have failed to stop the spread of hate and disinformation. And Twitter ranked near the bottom of the companies we reviewed.
The following day, Elon Musk took over Twitter, fired top executives — and hate speech increased 500% on the platform within the first 12 hours. Seeing how truly dangerous this was, we sprang into action to organize a campaign calling on Twitter’s top advertisers to suspend all advertising on the platform if Musk follows through on plans to undermine the social network’s community standards and content moderation.
This all led to the meeting that civil-rights leaders and I had with Musk.
I told Musk that hate, harassment and conspiracy theories proliferate on the platform, and underscored the disproportionate harm that unmoderated social-media spaces inflict on women and people of color. I asked him to retain and fully enforce election-integrity measures.
After the meeting Musk tweeted out a few commitments:
- First, he agreed that he would not reinstate anyone kicked off Twitter for violating its trust and safety rules to the platform before the U.S. midterm elections next week — and he promised that any replatforming following the election will involve a transparent process.
- Second, he agreed to retain and enforce election-integrity measures and assured us that all staff responsible for this work would have access to Twitter’s tools by the end of this week.
- Finally, he promised that he would consult with civil- and human-rights experts and those who have been targeted online as he develops new content-moderation policies.
It’s a good first step but to be clear — this isn’t enough to stem the tide of hate and lies on Twitter. As our report shows, hate, abuse and conspiracy theories are rampant on Twitter. There is so much more that needs to happen to make Twitter a space for robust and healthy dialogue.
And, of course, actions speak louder than words. We’ll be watching Musk closely and will make sure that he backs up his promises.
Holding Musk accountable
With our four-dozen partners, Free Press will continue to pressure Twitter’s largest advertisers to push Musk to retain and actually enforce existing content-moderation rules and community standards. If Musk won’t prioritize safety on the platform, then advertisers should refuse to spend money to see their content alongside lies, harassment and extremism.
We must act immediately to disrupt the real-world violence that social-media companies have helped fuel, from the mass shooting targeting Latinos at a Texas Walmart to the attacks at Black churches, Jewish temples and Muslim mosques. Most recently, we saw the shocking attack against Nancy Pelosi’s husband — which Musk himself spread conspiracy theories about.
These events — and the daily harassment, threats and intimidation targeting women and people of color on these platforms — are why we can’t simply log off or disengage. This is about our communities’ ability to speak freely, yes, but also to live free from hate-fueled violence.