Weeks after defeating Elon Musk’s attempt to suppress it in court, the anti-hate research nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) is back with a new lawsuit targeting Musk’s social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. Research is back. The study builds on earlier research into his impact on online speech, focusing on how policy changes enacted by Musk have actively rewarded hate speech posters with increased reach, engagement, and even direct payments through X’s subscription feature.

CCDH’s latest research takes the form of a case study examining the growth rate of 10 influential accounts that pay X Premium and post anti-Semitic and/or anti-Muslim hate speech since the Israel-Gaza conflict sparked by Hamas attacks October 7, 2023, Israel. The report said some accounts turned to hate war posts after previously posting conspiracy theory content related to COVID-19.

The 10 accounts tracked by the study, titled “Hate Pays: How Account Dr. Pease; The Man Under Censorship; Jack Shields; Dr. Eli David; Genoa Radio; Ryan Dawson; Keith Woods; Word of the World; and Sam Parker.

CCDH found that these accounts were able to expand their influence on X after posting hateful content targeting the war. The report discusses examples of hate speech posted by these accounts, such as tweets depicting anti-Semitic tropes such as blood libel, or attempts to dehumanize Palestinians by portraying them as rats.

“In the four months leading up to October 7, follower growth per account was slow and the total number of followers grew by approximately 1 million. However, within four months of the conflict, they had gained a total of 4 million new followers,” the CCDH wrote, adding that this was a total increase of nearly four times compared to the four months before the war.

The growth rate of new followers gained by individual accounts during this period varied, with the highest growth multiple being 9.6 (Dawson’s account), followed by 8.3 (Hinkel) and 7.1 (Parker). At the lower end of the market, Way of the World’s fan base grew 1.7x during this period.

The report includes a notorious history of tracked accounts, noting for example that Hinkle was banned from WhatsApp, YouTube and PayPal. Alternatively, the Censored Men (anonymous) account, which in the past has typically posted in defense of toxic masculinity influencer Andrew Tate, has been focusing on the Israel-Gaza conflict since October 7.although Dawson, a Holocaust denier who also believes the 9/11 terrorist attacks were the work of Israel, was previously banned from X but had his account reinstated in 2023 under Musk.

Since X returned to Twitter in October 2022, the billionaire has reversed multiple legacy account bans, including welcoming back notorious white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Combined with the policy changes Musk has pushed for in areas such as content moderation, account verification, and advanced features like prioritizing posts from paid accounts, the result is a polarized speech platform where it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish truth from lies, and where Where the tone of posts often leans toward conversational anger (or worse).

CCDH believes this was intentional; it was a deliberate strategy by Musk to profit from the tragedy. It accuses him of embracing hateful accounts and configuring income.

Six of the 10 accounts it surveyed had X’s subscription feature enabled, meaning their followers could pay them to access additional content.The report also documented a post In early October, Hinkle shared a screenshot in which he appeared to have earned $550 in ad revenue in one month — profiting directly from engagement driven by hateful posts.

In separate findings, the CCDH said analysis of accounts showed that even critical retweets — such as quote-unquote tweets condemning hateful content — increased their visibility and impact (and potentially increased revenue opportunities). According to the report, such critical retweets have an impact of up to 28% on hateful posts, suggesting that this number is a conservative estimate as it does not take into account X’s own algorithmic response to these retweets, which further amplifies content designed to harvest more More engagement to earn advertising profits.

Ad-funded business models that earn revenue based on user engagement ultimately drive this mechanism of antisocial outrage. In X’s case, Musk’s erratic behavior alienated some advertisers. But that’s not all: CCDH found that all of the tracked accounts were running ads alongside their hateful posts. “We found ads for Oreo, the NBA, the FBI and even X itself placed near hateful posts,” it wrote.

“Under Elon Musk, X appears to be pursuing a strategy of hosting as much controversial content as possible,” a CCDH spokesperson told TechCrunch in response to questions about the study. “We are aware of this controversial content Content can be addictive, not just for users who agree with it, but also for users who criticize it. The potential benefit of Brands are willing to pay for ads that may appear near toxic content.”

“Our report studied accounts that grew dramatically despite posting false or hateful content, suggesting that posting such content did not impede the growth of X. This is not unique to the Israel-Gaza conflict, but it is part of the problem The latest example. Our previous research into the accounts that Musk restored after taking over Twitter showed that income.”

Commenting on the report, CCDH CEO and founder Imran Ahmed added in a statement: “The public and advertisers need to know more about X and ‘influencers’ who spread hate symbiotic and profitable relationship between them. Lawmakers must take action to increase transparency and accountability on platforms and allow these companies to be held accountable for harming the civil rights and safety of Jews, Muslims and other minority groups.”

Musk has previously claimed that hate speech has declined on his watch, but early research from CCDH debunked his claims.

X is currently investigated in the EU due to a series of acts of violating the EU’s online governance and content audit system, including responses to illegal content (may include hatred of hatred). Penalties for confirmed violations of the EU Digital Services Act can reach up to 6% of global annual turnover.

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