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The quality of Twitter conversation has ‘decayed’ after Elon Musk’s takeover

Extremists and toxic posts have flourished on Twitter since it was acquired by Elon Musk a week and a half ago, according to a new report. 

November 09, 2022

Extremists and toxic posts have flourished on Twitter since it was acquired by Elon Musk a week and a half ago, according to a new report. 
From July to October, researchers analyzed over 4.5 million “trending political narratives” on Twitter posts about civil war, election fraud, citizen policing of voting, and allegations of pedophilia and grooming.
“Pre-Musk takeover, the bulk of the conversation on these topics was focused on refuting misinformation, deriding the toxic speech, and mocking those who spread it,” said the report by Digital Planet, an interdisciplinary research initiative of the Fletcher School at Tufts University. 
“Post-Musk takeover, the quality of the conversation has decayed, with more extremists and purveyors of hateful content testing the boundaries of what Twitter might allow.”
Researchers noted that the Twitter conversation surrounding these topics was never entirely civilized. But before Musk’s ownership there was a greater effort by Twitter and its users to combat misinformation, hate speech, and toxic ideas.  
After buying Twitter for $44 billion, Elon Musk quickly laid off half of the company’s workforce—a move that’s been criticized for potentially hampering the service’s policing of  misinformation ahead of midterm elections on Tuesday. There’s also been a surge in hate speech, despite Musk recently saying Twitter would not become a “free-for-all hellscape.” 
Before Musk’s takeover, posts on Twitter claiming President Joe Biden was a pedophile in response to his “Soul of the Nation” speech in September were “drowned out by a response critical of [the] toxic speech,” the report said. In his speech, Biden said former President Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans were a threat to the country. 
After Oct. 28, the day following Musk’s official acquisition, researchers said “the conversation deteriorated quickly.” Users who claimed to be “testing the new Twitter out,” posted tweets calling Biden a pedophile and content containing anti-LGBTQ views.
Meanwhile, in analyzing peaks of election fraud conversations on Twitter in July, researchers found that all of the top tweets (tweets considered the most relevant based on their number of retweets or replies) were aimed at holding the accounts posting false information responsible by refuting the claims with fact-checking links.
“While it is still quite early, there are clear signs that extremist accounts are becoming more active post-Musk,” researchers wrote.
Twitter did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment. 
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