Elon Musk walked into Twitter headquarters to take control of the company carrying a sink, tweeting that people should let it “sink in” that he was now overseeing the platform’s operations.
Matthew Kriner, a senior research scholar at the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism (CTEC), was not at all amused by what was happening online at that moment. As the new ownership was moving in bathroom appliances, users were bombarding Twitter with posts containing ethnic slurs and conspiracy theories to test the notion that the platform was now a forum for unfettered free speech. Kriner is among those concerned that Twitter will become an environment where a toxic and dangerous culture will thrive.
Kriner and his team monitor online communities like Twitter as part of their investigations into online radicalization and accelerationist behavior. In a conversation soon after Musk took over Twitter, Kriner shared concerns about the direction Twitter could go without existing behavioral guardrails, some thoughts about the difference between trolling and harassment, and CTEC’s work with social media companies to help make platforms a safer place for audiences of all ages.
With funding from Logically, the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism (CTEC) will create a major new social media data resource to better understand how extremists organize, form narratives, and advance disinformation in the radicalization process.