By Peter Kenny
GENEVA (AA) - UN experts said Friday a sharp increase in the use of the racist “N” word on Twitter after its acquisition by Elon Musk highlights the urgent need for deeper social media accountability over expressions of hatred to people of African descent.
“In the early days of the Twitter acquisition, the Network Contagion Research Institute of Rutgers University highlighted that the use of the hateful and racist “N” word on the platform increased by almost 500% within a 12-hour period compared to the previous average,” said the experts.
“Although Twitter advised this was based on a trolling campaign and that there is no place for hatred, the expression of hatred against people of African descent is deeply concerning and merits an urgent response centered on human rights.”
They said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, recently sent an open letter to Twitter CEO Musk, emphasizing that free speech is not a free pass to spread harmful disinformation that results in real world harm.
“We call upon Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai, Tim Cook, and CEOs of other social media platforms to center human rights, racial justice, accountability, transparency, corporate social responsibility, and ethics in their business model,” said the experts.
- October acquisition of Twitter
Musk acquired Twitter on Oct. 28, 2022.
They said that “Hate speech,” advocacy of national, racial, and religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination and violence, as well as racism on social media, are not merely a concern for Twitter but also other social media giants such as Meta.
While some claim not to allow hate speech, the experts said there is a gap between company commitments to their policies and enforcement on social media sites.
“This is particularly salient in the approval of inflammatory ads, electoral disinformation on Facebook, and content that talks of conspiracy theories. Research from Global Witness and SumOfUs recently revealed how Meta is unable to block certain advertisements,” said the experts.
They noted that in response to many complaints, Meta took a significant step in establishing an oversight board in 2020.
- Two million appeals
The experts said this group of experts from diverse areas is in place to “promote free expression by making principled, independent decisions regarding content on Facebook and Instagram and by issuing recommendations on the relevant Facebook Company Content policy.”
Resourced with funds and receiving two million appeals regarding content, the Board has made some recommendations and decisions.
“However, the effectiveness of the Oversight Board can only be seen over a long-time horizon and will require continued commitment at the highest levels of the social media to review and modify their mechanisms to address incitement to racial hatred online,” said the experts.
They observed that there is a risk of arbitrariness and profit interests getting in the way of how social media platforms monitor and regulate themselves.
The experts said that too often that the spread of hatred and hate speech against people of African descent and other groups undermines their rights and creates major fissures in societies.
“These are increasingly difficult to overcome and a source of various forms of destabilization within countries,” said the experts.