Santa Clara Co. DA deactivating Twitter account due to rise in hate speech after Musk takeover

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Tuesday, December 6, 2022
Santa Clara Co. DA leaving Twitter due to rise in hate speech
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Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen says he will deactivate his office's Twitter account due to rise in hate speech on the platform.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen announced Monday that he will deactivate his office's Twitter account due to the recent rise in hate speech on the platform.

In a statement, Rosen called on other district attorneys around the country to leave Twitter in an effort to stand against racist and homophobic speech.

"I noticed an explosion of hate speech and racism and antisemitism on that Twitter platform," Rosen said. "That really started me thinking as to why my office and the taxpayers and the people that I represent in this wonderful, diverse community; Why I'm using a platform that is making money by getting eyeballs to look at things that are racist and anti-Semitic."

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"I think that the straw that broke the camel's back, was the owner of Twitter, posting a well-known, anti-Semitic and racist meme, Pepe the Frog," Rosen said.

Pepe the Frog meme is not explicitly anti-Semitic but is frequently used by online antisemites and the alt-right.

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Research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate and the Anti-Defamation League found that the use of slurs against Black people, Jewish people and gay and transgender people spiked on the platform in the first full week after Tesla CEO Elon Musk became the owner of Twitter.

In addition, the ADL found a 61.3-percent increase in antisemitic tweets referencing "Jews or Judaism" during the two weeks following Musk's takeover of Twitter in late October, compared to the two weeks prior.

Grant Kien, a professor of communication at Cal State East Bay points to numbers that show a rise in anti-Semitic and racist tweets isn't imagined.

"The New York Times has reported over the weekend that racist slurs against African Americans have more than tripled since Musk took over," Kien said. "There are 60 percent more anti-Semitic tweets, there are twice the number of hate tweets against gay people."

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He says that along with a rise in fake accounts on Twitter, the rhetoric puts agencies like the Santa Clara District Attorney's office at risk on a platform that had been useful to them.

"A lot of government agencies were taking to Twitter as a kind of way to continue having some engagement with the public, even when their budgets and departments were being slashed, and then gutted," Kien said, "Now we're seeing the opposite and some of it has to do with the principles that these agencies and departments are sworn to uphold. And they're just not confident that they can fulfill their mandate, fulfill their mission, with the way that things are going right now on the platform."

So far Musk has not issued any response to Rosen's move but last week he disputed claims that hate speech has risen since he took over Twitter.

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For now, Rosen says he's calling on other district attorneys to also leave Twitter.

"I have other ways to communicate with the public, through radio, through television, through other social media," Rosen said. "Using the Twitter platform is not necessary."

Rosen also cited Twitter lifting its ban on some 62,000 accounts that were previously banned for, among other things, misogyny, racism, transphobia and other hate speech.

Musk has argued in favor of this "general amnesty" for previously banned accounts in the name of free speech.

Rosen said his office's account will be officially deactivated on Tuesday. The office will maintain its Facebook page.