Elon Musk’s X sued this non-profit after it exposed hate speech, and its new research shows little has changed

Technology

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Hate speech continues to flourish on the messaging service formerly known as Twitter, according to The Center for Countering Digital Hate.

The CCDH said Wednesday that X fails to remove posts that contain hate speech despite being notified that the content violates the company’s current hateful conduct guidelines.

The CCDH’s report comes a little after one month after X sued the nonprofit over allegations that some of the group’s previous research was derived from unscrupulous methods, including the use of illegally scraped Twitter data.

CCDH CEO Imran Ahmed declined to comment about the specifics of the lawsuit, but said that the CCDH did not use data-scraping tools to conduct its latest research and instead “simply went in and had a look.”

For this report, the CCDH collected 300 posts spread from 100 accounts that contained hateful content, such as posts urging people to “stop race mixing” and messages stating that Black people are intrinsically violent. About 140 of those 300 posts contained antisemitic content, including images of Nazi swastikas, messages supporting Holocaust denial, and notes promoting conspiracy theories related to Jews.

The CCDH said it reported the posts to X via the company’s user-reporting tools on August 30 and 31. When the researchers followed up a week later, they found that X had only taken down 41 posts, meaning that 259 posts containing hateful content were still active, including one that that referred to Hitler as “A hero who will help secure a future for white children!” Additionally, 90 of the 100 accounts that were responsible for sending the posts were still active.

Major companies like Apple and Disney ran online ads on X that appeared next to the hateful content, the CCDH report said. One ad from Walt Disney World ran below a post that insulted Black Americans while an Apple ad was displayed above a post insinuating Holocaust denial. Another ad from the corporate server company Supermicro was sandwiched between two pro-Nazi posts that contained images of the swastika.

“What this shows is that it takes out any excuses of this being about capacity to detect problematic content,” CCDH CEO Imran Ahmed told CNBC. “We’ve done the detection for you, and here’s how you responded, or here’s how we can see that you responded.”

Ahmed added: “Leaving up content like this is a choice, and that invites the question: Are you proud of the choices you’re making?”

While X’s process for users to report hateful content is “straightforward,” Ahmed said, “the problem is that people on the other end of the alarm bell either aren’t listening, they’ve got earplugs in and they’re ignoring everything, or they are being incredibly selective in what they choose to respond to.”

X did not respond to a request for comment, and instead pointed to a post saying that “based on the limited information we’ve seen, the CCDH is asserting two false claims – that X did not take action on violative posts and that violative posts reached a lot of people on our platform.”

“We either remove content that violates our policies or label and restrict the reach of certain posts,” the company said in the X post, adding that it would review the report when it is released and “take action as needed.”

While he didn’t comment on the specifics, Ahmed told CNBC that he believes X’s lawsuit was intended to place a financial burden on the CCDH, and that he estimates it will cost the nonprofit “half a million just to defend it.”

X attorneys have previously said that the CCDH’s prior research was an attempt to “to drive advertisers off Twitter by smearing the company and its owner.”

Last week, Musk said that he was considering filing a defamation lawsuit against the Anti-Defamation League, which he claimed was “trying to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic.” Musk attributed a 60% decline in X’s U.S. advertising revenue to a pressure campaign from the ADL.

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt soon responded by saying that Musk was merely issuing a “threat of a frivolous lawsuit” and said that the billionaire’s behavior was “flat out dangerous and deeply irresponsible,” referring to Musk engaging with “a highly toxic, antisemitic campaign” that helped foster the #BanTheADL campaign to trend on the messaging service.

Last Friday evening, X CEO Linda Yaccarino wrote a post on X saying that “X opposes antisemitism in all its forms” and that “Antisemitism is evil and X will always work to fight it on our platform.” Yaccarino’s post also pointed to a corporate blog post detailing the ways X is addressing antisemitic content on its platform, including improving automatic enforcement and providing training support for its “frontline moderators.”

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