News

Santa Clara County district attorney to leave Twitter due to hate speech, calls on other DAs to follow suit

Research shows spike in racist, homophobic speech after Elon Musk became owner of social media giant

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen announced Monday that he will deactivate his office's Twitter account due to the recent rise in hate speech on the platform.

Jeff Rosen. Courtesy Jeff Rosen.

In a statement, Rosen called on other district attorneys around the country to leave Twitter in an effort to stand against racist and homophobic speech.

Research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate and the Anti-Defamation League found that the use of slurs against Black people, Jewish people and gay and transgender people spiked on the platform in the first full week after Tesla CEO Elon Musk became the owner of Twitter.

In addition, the ADL found a 61.3-percent increase in antisemitic tweets referencing "Jews or Judaism" during the two weeks following Musk's takeover of Twitter in late October, compared to the two weeks prior.

Rosen also noted that Musk himself has posted tweets that include the Pepe the Frog meme, which is not explicitly antisemitic but is frequently used by online antisemites and the alt-right.

Help sustain the local news you depend on.

Your contribution matters. Become a member today.

Join

"Every American has a moral obligation to fight against hate speech. There are many ways to do that, large and small," Rosen said. "Here's one way: Quit Twitter. My Office — the largest prosecutor's office in Northern California — is quitting Twitter."

Rosen also cited Twitter lifting its ban on some 62,000 accounts that were previously banned for, among other things, misogyny, racism, transphobia and other hate speech.

Musk has argued in favor of this "general amnesty" for previously banned accounts in the name of free speech.

"Many of these handles were previously banned by Twitter because they spread hatred and bigotry," Rosen said. "Now they are back. That is not free speech. It is a cynical marketing strategy."

Rosen said his office's account will be officially deactivated on Tuesday. The office will maintain its Facebook page at facebook.com/SantaClaraDA.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Your support is vital to us continuing to bring you political news. Become a member today.

Santa Clara County district attorney to leave Twitter due to hate speech, calls on other DAs to follow suit

Research shows spike in racist, homophobic speech after Elon Musk became owner of social media giant

by Eli Walsh / Bay City News Foundation /

Uploaded: Mon, Dec 5, 2022, 4:40 pm

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen announced Monday that he will deactivate his office's Twitter account due to the recent rise in hate speech on the platform.

In a statement, Rosen called on other district attorneys around the country to leave Twitter in an effort to stand against racist and homophobic speech.

Research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate and the Anti-Defamation League found that the use of slurs against Black people, Jewish people and gay and transgender people spiked on the platform in the first full week after Tesla CEO Elon Musk became the owner of Twitter.

In addition, the ADL found a 61.3-percent increase in antisemitic tweets referencing "Jews or Judaism" during the two weeks following Musk's takeover of Twitter in late October, compared to the two weeks prior.

Rosen also noted that Musk himself has posted tweets that include the Pepe the Frog meme, which is not explicitly antisemitic but is frequently used by online antisemites and the alt-right.

"Every American has a moral obligation to fight against hate speech. There are many ways to do that, large and small," Rosen said. "Here's one way: Quit Twitter. My Office — the largest prosecutor's office in Northern California — is quitting Twitter."

Rosen also cited Twitter lifting its ban on some 62,000 accounts that were previously banned for, among other things, misogyny, racism, transphobia and other hate speech.

Musk has argued in favor of this "general amnesty" for previously banned accounts in the name of free speech.

"Many of these handles were previously banned by Twitter because they spread hatred and bigotry," Rosen said. "Now they are back. That is not free speech. It is a cynical marketing strategy."

Rosen said his office's account will be officially deactivated on Tuesday. The office will maintain its Facebook page at facebook.com/SantaClaraDA.

Comments

Douglas Moran
Registered user
Barron Park
on Dec 6, 2022 at 1:39 am
Douglas Moran, Barron Park
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 1:39 am

If I had known this before the election, I would have voted against Rosen and urged others to do so.
A prosecutor should not prioritize partisan loyalty and virtue signaling over facts and logic.

1. "...Twitter lifting its ban on some 62,000 accounts that were previously banned for, among other things, ... hate speech."
Those banned "other things" included major news stories, whistleblowers, evidence-based dissent, attempted exposure of government disinformation campaigns and misconduct, public participation against the establishment's narrative, and satire.
The DA seems comfortable with cover-ups and unsupportive of freedom of speech.

2a. "... Pepe the Frog meme, which is not explicitly antisemitic but is frequently used by online antisemites and the alt-right."
Guilt by (questionable) association. A commonly used counterpoint is "Hitler breathed air, therefore anyone who breathes air is a Nazi."

2b. "Pepe the Frog meme" This long-established meme fell afoul one of the many groups that profit from a symbiotic relationship with the media by providing claims that generate headlines that whip up outrage.
Lesson: The "OK" gesture has been widely used in the US for almost two centuries and dating back 23 centuries more. A prank claiming it meant "White Power" was "red meat" to the groups that feed off hate-speech claims.

2c. Is the DA using an event that he admits was almost certainly innocent as evidence of Musk's guilt of something??

3. The DA cites two sets of statistics from an advocacy group whose motivation is promoting their cause, not reality. Yet he does this without a hint of skepticism. It isn't triggered by a common red flag: The emotional word "spiked" attached to an implausible event: Hate speech purportedly rapidly rising and falling within one week without any plausible mechanism or cause.

Note: I am not a Musk fan. I don't understand the Pepe meme. I don't use Twitter -- I already have enough legitimate interruptions and distractions.


John
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 6, 2022 at 8:21 am
John, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 8:21 am

He was oddly unperturbed over the past several years by the 1000s of tweets, left uncensored by Twitter staff, calling for violence against Whites. Hmmm.

The child abused/pornography that site was rife with kept me far away, but it appears DA Rosen had no strong objections to supporting ads on a site that permitted those images and videos. Thankfully Musk eliminated most of that filth in less than a week (citation linked).

Web Link


John Donegan
Registered user
another community
on Dec 6, 2022 at 10:19 am
John Donegan, another community
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 10:19 am

It is disheartening to see the Left's abandonment of support for free expression, going from the Free Speech Movement of the 1960's, to promoting the suppression and censorship of anything it subjectively deems to be "disinformation" or "hate speech". Of course, in the 1960's in Left was challenging institutional power, while today they ARE the institutional powers, and working to consolidate and maintain their powers.


Former PA resident
Registered user
another community
on Dec 6, 2022 at 10:40 am
Former PA resident, another community
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 10:40 am

@Douglas Moran - I think a more apt analogy for the Pepe the Frog meme is not "Hitler breathed air, therefore anyone who breathes air is a Nazi" (which makes absolutely no logical sense), but the Confederate flag. Both are symbols of hate, and everyone knows that. People who display these symbols are expressing support for those hateful views, and everyone knows that as well.


Retired PAUSD Teacher
Registered user
another community
on Dec 6, 2022 at 12:18 pm
Retired PAUSD Teacher, another community
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 12:18 pm

Mr. Rosen is not abandoning free expression. He is simply exercising his free expression to disassociate his office from Twitter. He is free to do so, just like others are free to use the platform. Free speech cuts both ways.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2022 at 12:23 pm
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 12:23 pm

I checked out Twitter briefly and was appalled by the horrible (not exaggerating in the slightest) incivility of discourse. I walked away. Never looked back. It is a gossip venue that panders to the lowest common denominator -- doing more harm than good in the world. I'm not at all interested in participating.



Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 6, 2022 at 12:50 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 12:50 pm

I personally have never been on Twitter. I thought the founder - J. Dorsey was intentially unsociable and looked like a homeless person. Reading the papers to day, and Sunday - I am so amazed by the people who are chimming in on this activity. The SFC's go to person for the "D" playbook - Garfoli had the word HATE in evey paragraph. Opinion writers for the NYT - J. Blow are so centered on Twitter that it actually compromises what ever opinions he has had or will have. Now today Mr. Rosen's picture in the paper shows a deranged person. How does Twitter affect any political and legal positions handed out by his organization? And others report in on how Twitter is used to dessiminate health information for their organizations which are funded by taxes.They don't have their own messaging system for their patients?

This questions who has an original thought in their heads that are making legal and financial decisions in the government and private business. The big joke on Fox News is showing how all of the MSNBC and CNN people say the exact same thing - word for word. Is Twitter handing out talking points to government and media people so that all are saying the exact same thing?

Mr. Rosen should have kept his mounth shut. He has compromised the legal system in this county. And references all of the other legal systems in the state which are compromised. Are they follwoing the law or societal opinions.

Elon has accomplished a goal here - expose a major problem which is not a R or D problem - but a societal problem.


vmshadle
Registered user
Meadow Park
on Dec 6, 2022 at 2:50 pm
vmshadle, Meadow Park
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 2:50 pm

Douglas Moran, "partisan loyalty and virtue signaling?" Please.

And how on earth have you supported your assertion that "The DA seems comfortable with cover-ups and unsupportive of freedom of speech?" What, exactly, is he covering up? Furthermore, what's your evidence that he doesn't believe in the First Amendment, when he has sworn to uphold the U. S. Constitution as a job requirement?

Mr. Rosen became a prosecutor in part because he is a Jew who lost family in the Shoah. He is motivated by seeking justice for victims, not "partisan loyalty and virtue signaling."

How do I know this? I heard him say these very words at a talk he gave at his synagogue *many* years ago, long before social media replaced the physical "town square."

Far-right rhetoric on social media has been cited by multiple researchers looking into mass murders regarding what motivates (at least in part) the largely young, isolated, disaffected, mostly white males who commit these murders.

As a lesbian Jew, I already check two boxes that make me a target.

Tell me, do you check any boxes yourself? Or is being targeted by a mass murder entirely theoretical for you?


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2022 at 4:37 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 4:37 pm

Twitter has its faults, but where else do we go to get information about delays on Caltrain, police activity, power outages, and other useful information every day. I have no interest whatsoever in listening to so called celebrities giving their opinions on everything and anything of which they usually have no idea, but I do like being able to go to one place to find out things that actually affect me. Usually something like twitter is the first place PAPD, PA Utilities and Caltrain, among others, post their information.


Douglas Moran
Registered user
Barron Park
on Dec 6, 2022 at 5:22 pm
Douglas Moran, Barron Park
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 5:22 pm

@Retired PAUSD Teacher:
1. The Office of the District Attorney is a *public* office and represents the people of Santa Clara County. It is not a personal platform for the current occupant. One of the duties of that office is to inform the public of relevant issues.
2. Freedom of speech involves *your* expression of ideas. It definitely does not include the right to deprive a willing audience of information.

@Consider Your Options:
Your decision to not participate on Twitter is appropriate & valid and one many others share. However, Twitter is not an all-or-nothing platform. You could choose to "follow" the DA's Office and get only tweets from it. Rosen has chosen to deprive all Twitter users of the opportunity to receive that information via the platform they use.

@vmshade:
A public official's personal history and experience can legitimately (partially) inform his decisions but if they are the predominant basis for a decision, he is no longer functioning as a public official/servant.

"Far-right rhetoric on social media": same for that on the Left and other categories of extremists/terrorists. An open question is whether that rhetoric radicalizes people or people who have already been radicalized seek media that provides self-confirmation. Most of the studies I have looked into have no credibility because of blatant abuse of statistics, being transparently partisan ...

@Former PA resident: "People who display these symbols are expressing support for those hateful views, and everyone knows that as well."
Is a SCUBA diver signaling with the "OK" sign supporting White Power? Similarly for other situations where the OK sign is used. Do we need a grand purge of historic paintings, photos and videos, of movies and TV ... to protect people from exposure to these symbols and the potential that they could be radicalized?? For example, a painting of an 1836 campaign rally for Martin "Old Kinderhook" Van Buren, 8th US President and a founder of the modern Democratic Party.


Andy
Registered user
Stanford
on Dec 6, 2022 at 5:23 pm
Andy, Stanford
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 5:23 pm

There's a crime epidemic and the Santa Clara DA is playing politics about Twitter to oppose free speech? Every DA has a responsibility to engage with the community. If Mr. Rosen is too afraid of speech or the public, he should RESIGN instead.


Andy
Registered user
Stanford
on Dec 6, 2022 at 5:28 pm
Andy, Stanford
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 5:28 pm

Jeff Rosen is clearly unfit to hold public office if this is what he is focused on. I strongly urge the community to demand his resignation and shove him out.


RickMoen
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Dec 6, 2022 at 8:11 pm
RickMoen, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 8:11 pm

Twitter never was any real commons, just another corporate walled garden, and I won't lament its probable near-future collapse.

Fortunately, for a decade-plus, an actual commons, Mastodon -- advertising-free, surveillance-capitalism free, federated, and open source -- has been available to take Twitter's place as an approximate work-alike, which is one reason about a million Twitter refugees migrated there over the past month, with the exodus continuing.

I therefore wrote today to DA Rosen that he should consider establishing a @SantaClaraDA social media presence on his choice of Mastodon instance, and that mastodon.sdf.org might be a suitable home, on account of the articulate legal commenters already posting from there. It'd sure be miles better than Facebook, though there's no accounting for taste.

For those not (yet) familiar with Mastodon, see the recent Wired.com article covering its rapid rise as Twitter crumbles.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 6, 2022 at 10:23 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2022 at 10:23 pm

This is crazy. We have a whole spectrum of newspapers for the bay area and so-called reporters who are suppose to cover different aspects of what goes on around here. I depend of the local papers and local news shows to provide updates on the activities and problems that are happening here, state-wide, federally, and around the world. I use facebook to keep up with friends and organizations that are social and event oriented - same as this system here. It never occurred to me that some people think twitter is suppose to report the DA's legal activities. It never occurred to me that the DA would view a media platform as part of the decision making that goes on in any legal matter. It never occurred to me that the DA would react as he did in his professinal capacity citing his job.

As a side note I grew up in West Hollywood, CA. That is a gay city - it is popuated by all of those people who have jobs in the entertainment business. There is a whole business base that all are involved in so they rise by skill - all else being equal. That is different for the bay area that does not have a economic base that is oriented in any one direction. There is also a huge population of people who fled Europe due to religious reasons. Again you rise by skill all else being equal.

I guess the bottom line here is get on Twitter and find out what I am missing - and noting who is doing what that are being paid for by taxpayer dollars.


John Donegan
Registered user
another community
on Dec 7, 2022 at 9:30 am
John Donegan, another community
Registered user
on Dec 7, 2022 at 9:30 am

Twitter is nothing more than a community bulletin board, and using it is not an expression of support for any other user. If you post an ad for, say, a bike you are selling on the bulletin board, no one sees that as an endorsement of or participation in, the club bake sale that is also posted. And use by the DA's office has never been seen as an endorsement of any of the other users. Rosen is merely attempting to use exiting as a tool to "punish" Twitter for allowing other users he disagrees with, and to force them to act as an ideological filter. The DA's office is supposed to serve the public, and not be Rosen's personal weapon to punish "the other side".


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 9, 2022 at 8:59 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Dec 9, 2022 at 8:59 am

Now the cat is out of the bag here. Watching cable news it is very specific as to how Twitter has been used to control disussion of very hot political topics. Many entries simply do not appear on the system if they are from targeted people - or targeted topics. Many hot topics are buried. Much like entries waiting for approval to be reflected in the overall system. Or entries which show redactions so you do not see the whole content of the entry. Looking at this page I see on the right hand side the connections to FB, Twitter, Mail, and +. People are using this platform to transfer opinions to other media platforms.

The SFC and SJM are getting smaller in size and content. The NYT employees are on strike because they have not received and pay raises and want to work from home. They no longer want to slog through the NY city to go to work. A person really has to work at noting trends in what is considered socially acceptable - like closing jails and letting everyone free. That is next in the CA budget control items.


Rebecca Eisenberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Dec 10, 2022 at 11:53 pm
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Dec 10, 2022 at 11:53 pm

I too am Jewish, and as a Jew, have had many in my family murdered due to anti-semitism. Like most Ashkenzi Jews, everyone in my family that did not make it out of Europe before the US closed borders before WWI, were killed in the Holocaust. The Nazis and their collaborators murdered more than 2/3rds of every Jewish person in Europe, and in some countries, e.g. Poland, they murdered virtually all of the Jewish population.

Speaking for myself and not for any office I hold, I wonder how quitting Twitter in protest to anti-semitism and other hate against marginalized groups can help the cause. Should we feel more safe, not less safe, now that the District Attorney - charged with prosecuting criminals including those who commit hate crimes - have left Twitter? Who will be there to witness potential hate speech and collect evidence of, say, planning of hate crimes?

For lots of folks, Twitter still offers benefits, including, for some, a sense of community. While there are many racists, white supremacists, homophobes, xenophobes and other bigots on Twitter, there also is the ability to mute and block accounts. Plus, Twitter has started blocking and expelling some accounts again, across the political spectrum.

I think what we need are people -- especially public servants charged with the job of protecting the public against racial, anti-semitic, and other hate-fueled violence -- present to stand up to bigotry of all sorts. A DA's office that truly believes in free speech would recognize, IMHO, that the most appropriate response to speech is more speech, and silence often can become collaboration.

I hope that Mr. Rosen changes his mind and stays in the fight rather than running from it. Now more than ever, we need voices of social conscience to counteract ignorance and fear. We must stay present to call out hate where ever we see it. I wonder, isn't that part of the DA's job?


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2022 at 12:46 pm
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Dec 11, 2022 at 12:46 pm

@Rebecca Eisenberg,

"A DA's office that truly believes in free speech would recognize, IMHO, that the most appropriate response to speech is more speech, and silence often can become collaboration."

Silence can be evil. There's silence and silencing. Complicated because silencing speech (for any reason) can turn into power and control which can go from good idea, to creepy, to dangerous. The better speech spaces are where rules apply equally & nothing perfect for that, every medium has flaws (the Weekly gives me a "post deleted" flag within a heartbeat of posting two comments in a row, but allows others to post 2-3 successive posts). No matter how perfect a platform though, speech is not always pretty, and scary that good people are retreating into content siloes.

Law enforcement should be everywhere though, they can't just chose the places that they personally feel safe at. Street cops don't prevent crime by telling people what streets to not use, it's not that simple.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 11, 2022 at 10:18 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Dec 11, 2022 at 10:18 pm

Reading the papers my understanding is that the DA was posting job related information on twitter. He was using that platform to convey business related information. That is totally different from any one using twitter for their personal opinions. If he chooses to use it for personal use then who cares. The objection is using it for the conduction of very sensitive business for the county and state.
[Portion removed.]
We vote in and pay people to perform a job - usually very specific in what the job requirements are. That job is usually on a business platform - not a social network. That is tax payer jobs. Any city, county, and state functions need to be on a universally available platform and approved by the governing body of the city, county, and state.


staying home
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Dec 16, 2022 at 12:52 pm
staying home, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Dec 16, 2022 at 12:52 pm

Twitter is a private company, and apparently many of the commenters here don't use it. If the DA wants to leave it, who cares? Was that really your go-to source of information for updates from the DA office? Are we upset that the DA's office also is not using smoke signals, carrier pigeons, and HAM radio? I get making the announcement as it is a change in policy.

You like Twittter? use it. You don't like Twitter? don't use it.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.