Here's how Elon Musk can prevent racist Twitter raids

Here’s how Elon Musk can prevent racist Twitter raids

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In this photo illustration an image of Elon Musk is displayed on a computer screen and the twitter logo on a mobile phone in Ankara, Turkiye on October 06, 2022.

Muhammed Selim Korkutata | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

When Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk took over on Twitter, showing up for headquarters on October 27, 2022, online trolls and zealots attacked the social network, polluting it with a barrage of racist epithets and other hate speech.

But new research from the non-profit Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) and Rutgers reveals that Twitter’s security team responded better to this “raid” than the company did to a similar event. in April 2022.

According to NCRI CEO Adam Sohn, a raid occurs when bad actors online engage in coordinated activity to attempt to disrupt social media platforms, usually to harm marginalized people or specific targets.

GamerGate is probably the most infamous raid and took place around 2014 when 4Chan trolls who were part of the gaming community launched misogynistic attacks on women who were in the industry. They specifically targeted a woman and reviewer who spoke out against sexist tropes in games. Their campaign was waged on a myriad of social platforms, including Twitter and Reddit, and manifested in real-world rape and death threats, as well as a bomb threat targeting the critic.

Conspiracy-driven online communities have also been known to use raid tactics.

Some people engage in so-called “inauthentic” activities on social media just to see if they can get away with it. (“for the lulz”).

NCRI analyst Alex Goldenberg says that while Twitter’s action in response to last week’s hate speech was effective, the company could also have predicted and prevented it.

Hours before the deluge of hate speech, he said: “We assessed that this particular online troll campaign was motivated by coordinated and inauthentic activity that specifically originated from 4Chan. There, we detected an increase in n-slur mentions in tandem with Twitter mentions.”

NCRI uses sophisticated software and machine learning systems to monitor massive amounts of content on social media and to track rising hate and threats against marginalized groups online, including Blacks, Jews, Hindus and Muslims.

It provides research tools and publishes reports, security recommendations and warnings, sometimes directly broadcast on social networks, on places where threats are increasing and are likely to spill over into the physical world. According to Sohn, the NCRI’s hope is to use this information to prevent the real harm of these online efforts.

The NCRI was previously able to foresee a surge in violence against Asian Americans as the Covid pandemic emerged and identify an imminent threat from an anti-government group (the Boogaloo Boys) against the forces of order. They also warned of the rise of communities encouraging self-harm, primarily cutting, on Twitter.

What the NCRI found this time

The NCRI found that in the 12 hours after Musk arrived at Twitter headquarters, the use of an anti-black epithet (the n-word) on the social network increased by nearly 500% compared to to the previous average. NCRI published this rapid study the next morning, as Musk’s deal was officially done.

For the new study, the NCRI dug into historical data. The firm found that when Musk first revealed he had agreed to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share, in April 2022, a similar raid took place.

Comparing the two events, the NCRI found that Twitter did a better job of stopping the raid this time.

“While nearly half of accounts running the n-slur recently were suspended, less than 10% of accounts were suspended during the previous raid, suggesting this is a historical issue that predates the raid. purchase with historically uneven application.”

Despite Twitter’s forceful response to the hate speech, some damage had already been done.

Several advertisers have suspended spending on Twitter for now until they can get a better indication of how Musk will deliver on his promise to keep it “warm and welcoming” and prevent it from becoming a “hellscape free for all”.

Among those who have left Twitter for now are Shonda Rhimes, who is the creator of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Bridgerton” and other hit TV shows, Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Sarah Bareilles, and “This Is Us” actor and producer Ken Oline.

Others are waiting to see where Musk and his teams take the product, but have threatened to leave depending on the results.

Basketball icon LeBron James expressed concern over the rise in racist tweets, and Musk responded to him on Twitter with a link to a thread from current social network security manager, Yoel Roth. The longtime Twitter executive said their teams have taken steps to cancel the accounts responsible for much of the attacks.

The NCRI analysis confirms that the measures taken by Roth and the security team were effective.

In the future, NCRI would like to see greater use of “automated anomaly detection,” a technology commonly used in cybersecurity to monitor network performance or to detect when someone is trying to hack into a company’s systems. company, said NRCI senior intelligence analyst Goldenberg. .

Anomaly detection applied to social media would have allowed Twitter to take preventative action once the planned raid was initially detected.

Goldenberg and Sohn compare this technology to a smoke detector or a carbon monoxide detector for social issues brewing online.

While Musk has presented himself as a free speech absolutist, his record of advocating for the rights of others is mixed. More recently, he has recognized the need to balance the ideals of free speech with trust and safety on Twitter.

One thing he hasn’t promised to do publicly is pay more attention to his own tweets.

Musk has a history of posting unfounded conspiracy theories, comments and jokes that have been widely interpreted as sexist, anti-LGBTQ, racist or anti-Semitic. Memorably, he posted Hitler memes on his widely followed Twitter account.

Just after taking over Twitter, Musk shared an unsubstantiated anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theory about a home invasion and assault on Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Musk later deleted the tweet without explanation.

He currently has 113.7 million subscribers listed on the platform, a rapidly growing number.

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