Digital Disconnect Threads Instagram Twitter Rival Hate Content Speech Control Elon Musk Fat Shaming

Threads is now live. The new microblogging platform from Meta-owned Instagram opened doors to users in India and other countries on July 6. The signing-up procedure is pretty simple — as long as you have an active Instagram account, you can log in and start using the Threads app instantly, and also import all your followers and bio from Instagram to the new platform. 

After a few hours of using the app, Threads feels like a much-needed breath of fresh air in a market dominated by problematic social media platforms. Be it Twitter or even Meta’s own Facebook, the rampant issues of unwanted ads, hateful content, and paywalled features have made the overall social media experience distressing and even discouraging. 

Rampant Hate Posts On Twitter

Only last month, the annual Social Media Safety Index from GLAAD showed that Twitter struggled to protect its users against hate speech and harassment, especially when it comes to the safety of those who identify as gender non-conforming, non-binary, or transgender. 

Twitter’s owner, himself, is no stranger to fat shaming. In July last year, a shirtless photo of the billionaire entrepreneur went viral, with users trolling him over his physique.

Despite the trolls, as we can see above, Musk appears to have taken the posts in a good spirit. Inspiring gesture, right?

Well, certainly, until we check out a certain post by Musk himself, posted in April 2022, where he brazenly body-shamed Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, that too with a quip that could be called ‘crass’ at best.

Despite claiming in November 2022 (a month after his hostile $44-billion takeover) that hate speech impressions were down by one-third “from pre-spike levels”, a study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate in December claimed that hate speech has actually risen during the same time period. As per the CCDH data, prior to Musk’s acquisition, an average of 1,282 tweets containing slurs targeting Black individuals were recorded daily on the microblogging platform. However, this figure significantly rose to 3,876 (nearly three times) following his ownership of the company. The week in which Musk made a notable tweet witnessed a further escalation, averaging 4,650 offensive tweets per day.

In addition, the report revealed a 62 per cent surge in slurs directed at transgender individuals since Musk’s takeover of Twitter, reaching an average of 5,117 offensive tweets daily. The data was collected using Brandwatch, a prominent social media analytics tool, and encompasses tweets in English from various regions across the globe.

Twitter’s Not The Only One To Blame

In March this year, the Simon Wiesenthal Center unveiled its 2023 Digital Terrorism and Hate Report Card, which shed light on the inadequate efforts made by various social media platforms, including Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Telegram, and others, in curbing the dissemination of hateful content.

Highlighted within the report are alarming instances of escalating anti-Semitic, racist, and anti-LGBTQ+ messaging, coupled with calls for violence against Black individuals, immigrants, and Jewish residents. It emphasised the urgent need for these platforms to address these issues effectively and implement robust measures to counteract the spread of such hate-filled messages.

The problem of hate speech on social media became so rampant that only a few months earlier, in January, a group of UN experts urged the heads of social media giants to be more accountable in their efforts against rising hate speech online. The leaders were urged to “centre human rights, racial justice, accountability, transparency, corporate social responsibility and ethics, in their business model”.

So, What About Threads?

Well, for starters, Threads is not even a day old yet at the time of writing. Hence, it is understandably free of problematic content coming from questionable users. 

I personally enjoyed connecting with friends I already knew (thanks to importing followers from Instagram) on an entirely new platform. Sure, Threads does look and behave like Twitter, but when was the last time Twitter felt this… safe? 

There are no ads. There are no hashtags (no one appears to be fighting for follower supremacy just yet). And the best part? No Twitter Blue nonsense. Every user is only restricted to posting up to 500 characters at once — unlike Twitter Blue users who don’t restrain from using up their paid-for 10,000 character limit without a concern. 

For now, users on Threads are only talking about the new platform, sharing their excitement (or disdain) in using a new microblogging service. Some are happily sharing memes, while others are already showing their research prowess by sharing tips on what all you can do on Threads. 

Threads, for now, feels like the Instagram of old, when it was just a place for people with cool photography skills (and even cooler lenses) to share their captures. You know, before FOMO-inducing elements like “Instagram Goals” or “Instagram Places” ever took shape. 

This is what Twitter was always designed to be — people communicating in mini messages, voicing their opinions in a supportive way, and connecting with like-minded folks. 

However, Threads is getting more popular by the minute. As per Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the app saw 10 million sign-ups in just seven hours. This leads to an utterly depressing thought. With more users will come the interest of more brands to show up with ads. How long before Threads becomes yet another social media with rampant cases of hate content and unsolicited ads? The pessimist in me thinks perhaps soon. Will I be proven wrong? I certainly wish I were.

Digital Disconnect is an ABP Live-exclusive column, where we explore the many admirable advancements the world of tech is seeing each day, and how they lead to a certain disconnect among users. Is the modern world an easier place to live in, thanks to tech? Definitely. Does that mean we don’t long for things to go back to the good-ol’ days? Well, look out for our next column to find out. 

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