Bulletins

Civil rights leaders pushed Musk on racist tweets in a private meeting

“Obviously that was a coordinated attempt to test the system, and the system failed.”

Elon Musk speaks to host Chris Anderson at SESSION 11 at TED2022: A New Era on April 14, 2022, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

Musk told civil rights leaders he doesn't want Twitter to be a hate amplifier.

Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Civil rights leaders confronted Elon Musk about the uptick of tweets containing racial slurs since he took over Twitter in a virtual meeting Tuesday afternoon, and also pushed him on the need to maintain election integrity measures before the midterms and restore content moderation tools that have been frozen.

The group — which included the heads of the Anti-Defamation League, Color of Change, Free Press, the Asian American Foundation, the NAACP, and the George W. Bush Presidential Center — walked away with a few verbal commitments from Musk, which he tweeted publicly early Wednesday.


But attendees say they’re waiting to see whether Musk follows those commitments with action. “He seemed to be listening. He seemed to be earnest,” said Jessica González, co-CEO of the nonprofit Free Press. “But he’s also shown himself to be inconsistent. We will judge him by his deeds, not his words.” Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

González described the meeting as “cordial” but said she and others pushed Musk on the spread of racist tweets across the platform since last week. “Obviously that was a coordinated attempt to test the system, and the system failed,” González said.

In response, González said Musk told the group Twitter is working on removing that network, details of which Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, Yoel Roth, has been sharing in recent days. But, González said, “This is an unsatisfying answer, because it’s not hard to root out the N-word.”

The group also emphasized the need for Musk himself to set the tone for users. After taking control of Twitter, Musk shared, then deleted, a fake news story about the recent attack on Paul Pelosi. Though the group didn’t specifically discuss the tweet, it did emphasize that “with great power comes great responsibility,” said Yael Eisenstat, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League.

“Regardless of what he tells us and regardless of what he says the policies are, it is clear people felt emboldened to start spewing hate speech and other really concerning content,” Eisenstat said. “He specifically said — and these are his words — that he does not want Twitter to be a hate amplifier.”

The coalition approached Musk with three key requests: that the company not restore the accounts of anyone who was previously de-platformed until it has set up a transparent process for doing so; that the company continues to prohibit election lies and denial, even after Election Day; and that Twitter includes the voices of civil rights leaders and communities that have faced hate-fueled violence on its forthcoming content moderation council.

Eisenstat said Musk verbally agreed with all of it, and afterward, he tweeted at least some of those commitments publicly. “Now it’s up to us to monitor if he stays true to his words,” Eisenstat said.

Musk’s tweets about the meeting said setting up a process for restoring suspended accounts would take “at least a few more weeks,” appearing to negate the possibility that former president Trump’s account could be restored just before the midterms.

In addition to those requests, González said the group also tried to help Musk understand the damage to free speech that comes from allowing hate and harassment on the platform. “That can have a chilling effect on speech when someone is targeted and dogpiled and harassed,” she said.

Musk also assured the group that content moderation tools that had been temporarily frozen through the transition would be accessible again by the end of the week, González said.

Despite these commitments, the civil rights coalition is not letting up on its pressure campaign, which includes calling on advertisers to pull out of Twitter if Musk reduces content moderation on the platform. IPG, which represents major advertisers including Unilever and CVS, has already reportedly recommended its clients pause Twitter advertising. The same coalition of civil rights groups previously led an advertiser boycott of Facebook after George Floyd’s murder.

Musk’s tweets about meeting with these civil rights groups prompted a swift backlash from conservative commentators. “Already he’s getting trolled about this,” González said. “Actually doing the right thing requires making unpopular decisions sometimes.”

Latest Bulletins

Mobile game revenue will decline for the first time in history this year, market research firm Newzoo now says in a revised outlook for the 2022 global games market. While the whole game industry is expected to contract by 4.3% — another first since Newzoo began tracking the market in 2007 — the company is predicting a 6.4% decline in mobile game spending on top of a 4.2% decline in console game spending.

Keep Reading Show less

Amazon is planning to lay off thousands of employees, Protocol has learned, ahead of what the company has cautioned will be a slow holiday shopping season.

Keep Reading Show less

Google agreed to pay $391.5 million and make changes to its user privacy controls as part of a settlement with a coalition of 40 state attorneys general. The coalition accused Google of misleading customers about location-tracking practices that informed ad targeting.

Keep Reading Show less

FTX has filed for bankruptcy and the crypto company also announced that founder Sam Bankman-Fried has resigned as CEO.

Keep Reading Show less

Salesforce recently updated its internal policies to make it easier for managers to terminate employees for performance issues without HR involvement, Protocol has learned, a move that comes as the software giant looks to shed as many as 2,500 jobs.

Keep Reading Show less

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said fraud and scam reports comprise the top complaint it receives about virtual currencies — and that customers are finding little help from companies when it happens.

Keep Reading Show less

Elon Musk sent his first email to Twitter staff late Wednesday, warning of a difficult economic road ahead and telling employees they need to be in office for a minimum of 40 hours per week. "Sorry that this is my first email to the whole company, but there is no way to sugarcoat the message," he began, ominously.

Keep Reading Show less

Binance isn’t buying FTX after all. The crypto giant said Wednesday it has decided that it “will not pursue the potential acquisition” based on a “corporate due diligence” review.

Keep Reading Show less

On Wednesday, John Kerry unveiled a plan for a new carbon credit program aimed at mobilizing private capital to help middle-income countries transition away from coal and move toward renewable energy.

Keep Reading Show less

Meta announced it was laying off more than 11,000 employees Wednesday morning, slashing jobs in its recruiting department and refocusing its remaining team on AI discovery, ads, and its investment in the metaverse.

"I want to take accountability for these decisions and for how we got here," Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a message to employees that was also posted online. "I know this is tough for everyone, and I’m especially sorry to those impacted."

Keep Reading Show less

Al Gore has one mission this week at COP27, and that’s to give climate negotiators what he hopes will be a critical tool to address the crisis at hand: an independent, global inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, down to the individual facility.

The Climate TRACE coalition just released the world’s most detailed inventory of global greenhouse gas emissions, which Gore, a founding member, is unveiling on Wednesday at the United Nations climate summit in Egypt.

Keep Reading Show less

Way back in March, your friendly Protocol Climate team offered you some tips for writing a climate plan that doesn’t suck. Surely you took that advice. But if for some reason you didn’t, the United Nations has your back.

Keep Reading Show less

Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao said Tuesday the crypto powerhouse signed a deal to acquire rival FTX.

Keep Reading Show less

Salesforce is preparing for a major round of layoffs that could affect as many as 2,500 workers across the software vendor, Protocol has learned, in a bid to cut costs amid a new activist investor challenge and harsh economic conditions.

Keep Reading Show less

BlockFi has introduced a new digital assets interest product for accredited investors, after previously agreeing to shut down a yield-paying crypto product that the SEC said was illegal.

Keep Reading Show less

The Justice Department said Monday it seized $3.4 billion worth of bitcoin stolen in the 2012 hack of the Silk Road dark web marketplace.

Keep Reading Show less

U.S. election infrastructure is exceedingly secure, and voter fraud here is so rare it’s comparable to your annual chances of getting struck by lightning. Despite this, former President Donald Trump and a long list of allies in the Republican Party have spent the last two years questioning the overall integrity of the U.S. election system. Many of those allies are now candidates themselves, and their coordinated attack on the country’s status as a democracy is not a relic of 2020. Some have already started repeating these “Big Lie” charges ahead of next week’s midterms. And the social platforms that help them spread their message have prepared few measures to stop it.

Keep Reading Show less

The White House just laid out its climate tech priorities to reach net zero by 2050.

Keep Reading Show less

Coinbase said Thursday that it lost more users in the third quarter. But the decline wasn’t the disastrous drop that Wall Street was expecting, and that sparked a rally in the crypto company’s shares after-hours.

Keep Reading Show less

The Biden administration announced $9 billion in funding Wednesday to improve home efficiency, which could help support the installation of up to 500,000 heat pumps. With winter approaching and utilities warning of gas shortages, there are some major challenges facing the technology that money can be used to tackle.

Keep Reading Show less

Block beat earnings expectations, with strong growth largely fueled by its Cash App business. Traders sent shares up more than 12% after-hours Thursday.

Keep Reading Show less

Stripe is laying off 14% of its staff, its co-founders said Thursday, as the fintech startup must start "building differently for leaner times."

Keep Reading Show less

Roku saw its revenue growth slow in Q3, and warned investors Wednesday that things are about to get worse: “A lot of Q4 ad campaigns are being canceled,” said Roku CEO Anthony Wood during the company’s Q4 earnings call. “We’re seeing lots of big categories pull back. Telecom, insurance … even toy marketers are planning on reducing their spending.”

Keep Reading Show less

Green jobs and corporate climate pledges abound, but skilled sustainability professionals are scarce.

Keep Reading Show less

Robinhood reported a drop in third-quarter revenue but also a narrower loss on Wednesday, in a sign that it might be stabilizing its business as it attempts to recover from a staggering drop in the stock and crypto trading activity that fueled its growth.

Keep Reading Show less
Bulletins