Twitter makes millions from groomer slur after ‘Elon Musk sends bat signal to homophobes’

Posts mentioning the anti-LGBTQ+ ‘groomer’ narrative have soared by 119 per cent under Elon Musk’s management of Twitter, new research has revealed. 

Musk officially took over the social media platform on 27 October, 2022 at a cost of $44 billion, announcing a ‘general amnesty’ of banned accounts a month later as part of his ‘free speech’ plan for Twitter.

Before the takeover, right-wing Twitter users, such as Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, had taken to calling LGBTQ+ people “groomers”, in such numbers that the slur was added to Twitter’s hate speech policy.

Under Musk, this narrative has exploded – and it’s making money for the ailing network.

As part of its Twitter research, the CCDH identified 1,714,504 tweets and retweets since the start of 2022 that mention the LGBTQ+ community via keywords such as “LGBT”, “gay”, “homosexual” or “trans” alongside slurs including “groomer”, “predator” and “pedophile”.

The research found that prior to the tech billionaire’s takeover, there were an average of 3,011 tweets mentioning the groomer narrative per day. 

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These figures increased by 119 per cent, to 6,596, in the four months after Musk becoming owner.  

Researchers at the the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) analysed five accounts which are prolific at sharing the anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theory, discovering they generate up to $6.4 million (£5.2 million) per year for Twitter in advertising revenue.

One of these accounts – James Lindsay – was reinstated by Musk. 

This is not the first time social media conglomerates have benefitted from toxic accounts, with Meta – the parent company of Facebook – being found to have made more than $13,000 in October 2022 from adverts describing LGBTQ+ people as ‘groomers’.

Accounts promoting the conspiracy theory make millions for Twitter

Not unique to Twitter, the ‘grooming’ conspiracy theory has grown rapidly on social media sites and fringe forums in recent months, promoting the false idea that LGBTQ+ people inherently pose a sexual danger to children. 

The conspiracy theory has been given weight by right-wing politicians, extremist figures and popular accounts on the platform, which has seen teachers, Pride marches and ‘drag story hour’ events threatened and attacked. 

When high-profile attacks on the community and its rights take place, such as the Colorado Springs nightclub shooting or Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, the CCDH has found that grooming rhetoric dramatically increases across all major social media platforms. 

Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said described how the “hate-filled lies” about the LGBTQ+ community are mirrored by an “alarming” rise in real-world violence.

“This isn’t an accident,” Ahmed said, “Elon Musk put up the ‘bat signal’ to homophobes, transphobes, racists and all manner of disinformation actors, encouraging them to flood onto Twitter. 

“Not only has Musk’s ownership of the platform coincided with an explosion of the hateful ‘grooming’ narrative, but Twitter is monetising hate at an unprecedented rate.”

He added: “Just five accounts, including one reinstated by Musk, make Twitter $6.4 million per year, all of which he desperately needs to service the debt he owes to his Saudi Arabian co-owners.

“An indifference to the rights of marginalised communities is converging with a ruthless drive for profit in real time – and the LGBTQ+ community is bearing the terrible consequences.

“Twitter must decide if they believe in the fundamental rights and freedoms of LGBTQ+ people, or if they want to continue profiting from and normalising hate. 

“They cannot do both.”

‘Grooming’ narratives spill over into real-life violence

Jay Brown, the senior vice president of programs, research and training at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), warned that social media hate is contributing to real-life violence.

“We are experiencing a surge of anti-LGBTQ+ attacks as extremists continue to traffic in dangerous disinformation about our community,” Brown said.

“Digital platforms, like Twitter, are failing to protect our community from dangerous rhetoric that no longer hides behind the anonymity of a computer screen but has manifested into threats of violence in real life.”

Brown added: “Social media platforms have a responsibility to its users to create a space where the exchange of opposing ideas does not result in physical harm, or discriminatory legislation.”

Last month, CCDH researchers discovered Twitter is set to make up to $19 million a year from ads on just 10 toxic accounts reinstated by Elon Musk, since announcing his general amnesty policy.  

Twitter was contacted for comment and in response sent a poo emoji.