It’s been five months since billionaire Elon Musk became the owner and CEO of Twitter.
A new analysis by the non-profit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), which researches the architecture of online hate and misinformation, reports that in that time, tweets pushing the anti-LGBTQ+ “grooming” narrative have jumped 119%.
Five accounts pushing the lie are set to generate up to $6.4 million per year in advertising revenue for the platform.
The LGBTQ+ community has increasingly been targeted in recent months across social media, news and in proposed legislation for the outright falsehood that it “grooms” children. Certain events, such as the tragic Colorado Springs nightclub shooting in Nov. 2022, Musk’s recent attack on former Twitter employee Yoel Roth, who is gay, and the announcement by multiple states of proposed bans on drag shows “to protect children,” have inspired a renewed barrage of hate.
Twitter has been a key player in spreading these dangerous sentiments.
CCDH identified more than 1.7 million tweets and retweets since 2022 began that mention the LGBTQ+ community via a keyword such as LGBT, gay, homosexual or trans, alongside slurs including groomer, predator and pedophile.
Before Musk took over that same year, such tweets averaged a little more than three thousand per day – a figure that jumped 119% in the four months after his October takeover.
And the hateful rhetoric is proving profitable for Twitter — to the tune of $6.4 million.
Anti-LGBTQ+ activity from just five Twitter accounts — Libs of TikTok, Gays Against Groomers, Chris Rufo, Tim Pool and James Lindsay — are generating millions in ad revenue for the platform with anti-gay tweets that are being monetized. To find the $6.4 million figure, the CCDH analyzed publicly available information on tweet impressions, the results of a simulation to find the frequency of ads on Twitter and industry information on the cost of Twitter ads.
CCDH researchers also discovered that Twitter is positioned to earn up to $19 million a year from ads monetizing just ten hate speech accounts previously banned and then reinstated by Musk.
“This isn’t an accident. Elon Musk put up the ‘Bat Signal’ to homophobes, transphobes, racists and all manner of disinformation actors, encouraging them to flood onto Twitter,” said CCDH chief executive Imran Ahmed in a statement. “Not only has Musk’s ownership of the platform coincided with an explosion of the hateful ‘grooming’ narrative, but Twitter is monetizing hate at an unprecedented rate.”
Of the five accounts mentioned, the Anti-Defamation League named Libs of TikTok, Gays Against Groomers and Rufo on its list of the Top Online Amplifiers of Anti-LGBTQ+ Extremism. Lindsay, a conspiracy theorist, was permanently banned from Twitter before Musk reinstated his account, while Pool, a right-wing influencer, was condemned by Media Matters for spreading anti-trans hate and propaganda after the Colorado Springs nightclub shooting.
Publicly available data shows that tweets from these five accounts have amassed nearly 1.4 billion impressions since such stats became available publicly.
“Social media platforms have a responsibility to users to create a space where the exchange of opposing ideas does not result in physical harm, or discriminatory legislation,” said Jay Brown, Human Rights Campaign senior vice president of programs, research and training.
During his short time at Twitter, Musk has done away with the platform’s COVID-19 misinformation policy, dropped a former ban on political ads, inspired high-risk security concerns, laid off top security executives and inspired dozens of employees to leave in a mass exodus.
As the company further restricts user access for those who do not pay for its new subscription service Twitter Blue, accounts spreading dangerous misinformation may only increase.