Under Elon Musk’s leadership of Twitter, tweets linking LGBT people to “grooming” have skyrocketed, jumping 119 percent since Musk’s takeover in October 2022, according to a new report released by the Center For Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).
The study also found that Twitter is making millions from big-name advertisers, whose brands are appearing alongside hateful anti-LGBT rhetoric.
“Tolerance of this content is part of Elon Musk’s business model,” said Callum Hood, a CCDH researcher who helped write the new study. ““There is real world stuff happening now that appears to be a result of this rhetoric online.”
The study examined five high-profile Twitter accounts responsible for consistently linking LGBT to “grooming,” including Libs Of TikTok, the account run by Chaya Raichik; Gays Against Groomers, run by Jaimee Michell; right-wing commentator Christhoper Rufo; YouTuber Tim Pool; and James Lindsay, known for the phrase “Ok, Groomer.”
These five accounts alone are set to generate $6.4 million a year in advertising revenue for Twitter, CCDH researchers estimated. They found ads from big-name companies like Disney, T-Mobile, Kindle, and the NBA appeared next to explicitly anti-LGBT “groomer” tweets on these accounts, according to the report.
“An indifference to the rights of marginalized communities is converging with a ruthless drive for profit in real time,” Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the CCDH said in a statement, “Twitter must decide if they believe in the fundamental rights and freedoms of LGBTQ+ people, or if they want to continue profiting from and normalizing hate. They cannot do both.”
Over the last three years, far-right commentators and anti-LGBT activists have amplified a “grooming” narrative, which falsely suggests LGBT people are pedophiles and accuses them of “grooming” children for abuse. The “grooming” narrative has become a right-wing touchstone, animating campaigns to ban LGBT books from libraries, pass anti-trans legislation aimed at minors, and protest drag shows.
Lindsay was previously banned from Twitter in August 2022. In his final tweet, Lindsay called Alejandra Caraballo, an instructor at Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic who specializes in LGBTQ civil rights litigation, a “child sexualization specialist.” Lindsay’s account was then reinstated under Elon Musk.
For her part, Raichik has called LGBT rights a “cult and it’s so captivating,” in an appearance on Tucker Carlson in December last year, “They’re just evil people and they want to groom kids. They’re recruiting.”
The CCDH researchers also found that the amount of tweets containing the “grooming narrative” spiked around particular events, such as the deadly shooting at LGBT Club Q in Colorado Springs in November last year, which left five people dead.
After the shooting, Nic Grzecka, the owner of Club Q, said he believed the anti-LGBT “groomer” narrative was part of the reason for the attack.
“Lying about our community, and making them into something they are not, creates a different type of hate,” Grzecka said.
A month later, Elon Musk publicly attacked a former Twitter employee, Yoel Roth, suggesting he had once advocated for the sexualization of children. Roth, who is gay, was forced to flee his home, facing a barrage of harassment and online accusations that he was a “groomer.” The incident coincided with another spike in tweets about “grooming,” ‘CCDH researchers found.
Shortly after his takeover, Musk wrote an open letter to jittery advertisers, seeking to reassure them that he would be willing to curb hate speech on the platform. Musk said he bought the company because it is a place where “a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner,” and promised he would not allow the site to become “free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences.”
Researchers at the CCDH say their new report shows Musk hasn’t kept his word.
“Musk has not kept his promises on hate and that means he’s not keeping his promises to advertisers either,” says Hood, an author of the CCDH’s new report. “The decisions that he is taking personally seem to be calculated with one goal in mind: boosting user visits.”
This week, Musk revealed in a company-wide email that he now values Twitter at $20 billion, less than half what he paid for it in 2022.
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