Santa Clara County DA office to quit Twitter amid rise in hate speech on platform

The Santa Clara County district attorney on Monday announced his office will be leaving Twitter, saying the move was part of "a moral obligation" to combat hate speech. 

"The DA's office is quitting Twitter, and I'm doing this because of the explosion of hatred, bigotry, racism and antisemitism on the Twitter platform since it was bought by new ownership," said DA Jeff Rosen in an interview with KTVU. 

Rosen said that his decision to remove Northern California's largest prosecutor's office from Twitter came after he considered  "Twitter owner Elon Musk's own statements and posts, such as a meme used by racists and antisemites."

"I hope there are others particularly DA's offices that will consider quitting Twitter for the same reasons I have," said Rosen. 

In what he described as his final statement on Twitter, Rosen wrote on Monday, "As Americans, we have the freedom to loudly express our political opinions and strongly disagree with each other. However, when that speech crosses the line into hatred, racism and antisemitism, all of our precious and hard fought freedoms are undermined and our democracy is weakened."

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"Anyone who uses Twitter has noticed the proliferation of extremist posts in their daily feed. Many of these handles were previously banned by Twitter because they spread hatred and bigotry. Now they are back. That is not free speech. It is a cynical marketing strategy," Rosen said.

He also blasted the notion that racist, bigoted and antisemitic speech falls under free speech protections.

"That is not a principled stand. That is complicity," Rosen said, adding, "That is what many Germans did in the 1930s and what many South Africans did in the 1980s. It is what Elon Musk is doing in the 2020s."

The district attorney’s announcement came after Musk, who took over Twitter in October, began reinstating accounts blocked from the site, including that of former president Donald Trump, who had been kicked off Twitter for encouraging the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection. 

And last month, Musk announced he was granting "amnesty" for accounts that had been previously suspended by the company under former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. 

Musk said his decision to grant amnesty followed a poll in which he asked Twitter users to vote on the plan to allow the reinstatement of suspended accounts that have not "broken the law or engaged in egregious spam." 72% of those who took part in the survey said yes. 

"The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week", the CEO tweeted on Nov. 24, adding the Latin phrase "Vox Populi, Vox Dei," meaning "the voice of the people, the voice of God."

Twitter has been under fire since Musk took over the platform.

Musk has lifted bans on tens of thousands of accounts that had been cited for hate speech, saying that Twitter should be a platform that encourages more open dialogue, but not a "hellscape."

Research from the Anti-Defamataion League found a 61.4 percent increase in antisemitic tweets during the two weeks after Musk's takeover of the company compared to the prior two weeks. 

Musk says the assertion that hate speech has proliferated on the platform is false.

Still, there has been a growing list of advertisers that have pulled their brands off Twitter since Musk took the helm. Those advertisers included Abbott Laboratories, American Express Company, CA Lottery (California State Lottery), and Hewlett-Packard, according to a report from Media Matters for America

Outside Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco Monday night, messages of protest were projected on the building. 

Janitors picketed, saying Twitter did not renegotiate their contract with their company Flagship.

"We can't let a billionaire determine what rights we should and should not be entitled," said Olga Miranda, President of the SEIU Local 87.

 "I feel it's important for people to exercise their freedom of speech. This is an example of actual freedom of speech," said Alan Marling, who organized the projection protest.

Despite the controversy, Musk's takeover has not led to a mass closure of Twitter accounts.

Rosen on Monday said his office will turn to other avenues such as Facebook and the office's official website to inform the public.

"Our DA's office will continue to issue news releases which will go to TV, radio and newspapers and continue to use other social media platforms other than Twitter," said Rosen. 

The Santa Clara County DA's office will be the first known government agency in the U.S. to leave Twitter since the new Musk-era, according to Rosen's office.

"We don’t need 280 characters or a Billionaire’s app to say, ‘Bigotry has no home in the land of the free and the home of the brave,’" Rosen said, as he called for a collective response from other DA offices.

Rosen said his office's Twitter account will be deactivated on Tuesday. He invited the public to follow communications through its Facebook page or on its website.

Twitter did not immediately respond to KTVU's request for comment for this story.