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Elon Musk claims Twitter hate speech impressions have fallen amid ongoing questions about moderation

 (Getty Images for Heidi Klum)
(Getty Images for Heidi Klum)

Elon Musk has claimed that hate speech “impressions” have fallen by a third since he took over the site.

In the days after Mr Musk became the owner and chief executive of Twitter, it saw a vast surge in the amount of hate speech being posted on the site. Many users gleefully took advantage of Mr Musk’s commitment to minimise content moderation by posting racial slurs and other offensive content.

That meant that the number of people seeing hate speech surged dramatically. Twitter reported a “spike” in such hate speech that last for days.

Now, however, hate speech impressions are back below the number before he took over the site, Mr Musk said.

The focus on impressions appears to be part of Mr Musk’s commitment to allow “freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach”. In a number of posts, he has suggested that he will look not to delete problematic tweets but to reduce the number of people seeing them.

As such, Mr Musk gave no indication of whether the amount of hate speech being posted has reduced, only the number of times it has been seen.

Otherwise, he gave little indication of how the numbers had been gathered. In a reply, he indicated that the graph showed posts that include “bad words” and suggested he had been shocked by the contents of the list of words that are not allowed to be posted on the site.

He also suggested that only “1500 accounts” had caused the spike, and that some of the reduction in impressions had been achieved by reducing the maximum number of tweets an account is able to post.

Mr Musk’s previous claims about a reduction in hate speech on the platform have been queried by experts. Earlier in the month, Mr Musk said that hate speech had fallen “below our prior norms” – but watchdog the Centre for Countering Digital Hate said that the amount of posts including racial slurs and other problematic wording had increased.

When Mr Musk previously posted that the amount of hateful speech had fallen – on 4 November, after his first week of ownership of the site – the group found that the use of the n-word was three times that of the 2022 average, for instance.