Editor’s note: Roxanne Jones, founding editor of ESPN The Magazine and former vice president of ESPN, has been a producer, reporter and editor for the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Jones is the co-author of “Say it Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete.” He talks politics, sports and culture every week on 900AM WURD in Philadelphia. The opinions expressed here are solely his own. Read more reviews on CNN.
“Your account is deactivated.”
That’s the message I got 30 seconds after deleting Twitter the day Elon Musk became the new owner of the platform. After a mostly dysfunctional 12-year relationship with Twitter, which I admit has brought some moments of joy, it was time to exercise my freedom of speech to say goodbye and have some fun.
That small act may not have changed much in the Twitter-verse of 237.8 million users. But for me, quitting Twitter was an act of power and self-preservation. I was putting boundaries on what I will and won’t allow in my life.
And surely it was an act of silent defiance, because as a media professional I know what we do in newsrooms, the stories we choose to tell, the assumptions we make about the world have been shaped by what the Twitter-verse is. telling us
Many media professionals are mandated to have social media accounts. In fact, covering trending stories on Twitter is now a part of journalism. So when I quit, it’s clear that my media choices—and my bank account—could be negatively affected.
But I think it’s right to choose peace of mind over any work order or financial gain.
According to an Amnesty International report, black women are the most hated Twitter users. 84% more likely than white women to be the target of an abusive or problematic tweet. And those numbers are from a 2018 report, before Musk. After closing the 44,000 billion dollar deal to buy Twitter on October 27, this excess has increased.
According to a cyber research organization, the Network Contagion Research Institute, The use of the N word increased by almost 500% on the platform a day after Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech” absolutist, took over.
A Montclair State University study also found that homophobic, anti-Semitic and racially-charged hate terms have increased dramatically.
Welcome to Musk’s Twitter.
Hands have been wringing over this rise in hate speech despite Musk’s talk of adding content moderation and security measures to prevent the platform from becoming a “free-for-all hell.” In a recent meeting with the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League and other civil rights groups, Musk discussed appointing a “content moderation board” that would review the company’s policies. Some major advertisers are considering pausing advertising on Twitter.
Talking is good. And hopefully, Musk will work to reform Twitter to hold users accountable for dangerous conspiracy theories, hate speech, and threats so vicious they incite violence.
Maybe he’ll even work on his hobby of promoting lies and conspiracy theories his 114.5 million followersas he did in a now-deleted tweet in the early hours of October 28 about the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband at their San Francisco home.
But don’t expect a huge exodus from Twitter, not in a world where everyone wants attention and adulation. Everyone, it seems, wants to be a virtual brand ambassador or influencer.
Still, it was heartening to see some famous faces leave, including Shonda Rimes, Sara Bareilles and Toni Braxton.
However, Black Twitter—the platform’s community of millions of black users—remained on the site. The reasons for being faced with such blatant disrespect and hatred are varied. For some, it means keeping a job. Others may be convinced that Twitter is the best way to gain global influence, or that it is better to stay and fight for change from within.
I’m not here to judge, but good luck with that.
A black twitter user, Billy Dixon (@atwmpastor), he tweeted about one of the offensive messages he saw: “Save all racist twitter to prove that the new twitter is causing harm and violence to Black people. People only understand when they lose money.’
Another user, @lana_lovehall, he asked if hate speech were to be addressed: “Now that Elon Musk owns Twitter, will our reports of racism be taken (seriously) or continue to be ignored…”
Musk said Twitter had experienced a “tremendous drop in revenue” and cited “activist groups” pressuring advertisers.
But when you’re the richest man in the world, it’s hard to believe that a few threats from advertisers will break you.
The data on the rise of racism on Twitter may be illuminating, but it generally reinforces what we know to be true. Like many black women on the site, I can attest to what it feels like to be harassed and threatened with violence. I have experienced everything.
In a particularly vicious incident that spilled over into my personal life and became a matter of my family’s personal safety, the authorities had to get involved. Never backed down from bullies, I stood on the platform and fought against the haters for years.
What a waste of time. Waking up to toxic Twitter attacks kept me in beast mode, on and off the site. That’s what the Twitter-verse will do to you: piss you off and distract you from the real work at hand.
Twitter will pit you against anonymous bots that serve to misinform the masses and real people who don’t have the guts or intelligence to challenge you personally.
So no, I’m done. I will take my power and my voice and walk in the real world.