Elon Musk announced Friday, by tweet of course, that the account of Kanye West, now known as Ye, has been suspended. Whether or not the suspension is temporary was not clear. This followed a now-deleted tweet from the rapper reported to have contained an image of a swastika inside a Star of David.
According to the Twitter CEO, the post infringed the platform’s rule against incitement to violence, thus indicating that there are boundaries to free speech even under the new Twitter regime.
Why we care. The problem for Musk is that new research shows that slurs against Black Americans on the platform have tripled since he took over the reins, while anti-semitic slurs leapt over 60% in the two weeks following his acquisition. The data comes from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups.
What does this mean for marketers? Those planning to continue to use Twitter as a marketing channel must be scratching their heads. Is this the beginning of a clampdown on an increasingly unsafe-for-brands environment, or will Musk reverse himself as he so often does?
Musk announced himself as a “free speech absolutist,” but we now see that the absolutism has limits. But why just Ye? Marketers will rightly be concerned about advertising alongside the rising hate speech on the site, even if it’s coming from less well-known accounts.
Dig deeper: Many advertisers still using Twitter despite Musk’s chaos
Musk under attack. Some high profile figures have emerged to criticize Musk’s handling of these issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said back in November that “I don’t think any billionaire ought to be the one who has that kind of power, to decide how Americans, how people around the world get a chance to talk to each other.” Of course, Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, holding over 50% of the voting shares, has comparable authority.
Today, the musician Jack White made remarks highlighting Musk’s dilemma.