Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen recently deactivated his office’s Twitter account, but he isn’t the first South Bay politico to leave the social media site—and he likely isn’t the last.
Rosen deactivated the DA’s official Twitter account earlier this week, noting the recent takeover by billionaire and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has resulted in an “explosion of hate speech.” He joins a long list of people leaving the social media site following some controversial moves, including the reactivation of former President Donald Trump’s account, allowing people to purchase account verification without proper vetting for authenticity and the firing thousands of content moderators.
“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,” Rosen said in a statement on Monday. “Every American has a moral obligation to fight against hate speech. There are many ways to do that, large and small. Here’s one way: Quit Twitter.”
The office’s account, which had 4,520 followers, officially deactivated on Tuesday.
While Musk has publicly denied that hate speech has increased, research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate shows that slurs against Black people have more than tripled from the 2022 average since Musk took over, while slurs against gay people have gone up 58%.
That’s why San Jose Councilmember Dev Davis decided to quit Twitter two weeks ago.
“I didn’t feel comfortable supporting an egotistical billionaire bent on being the world’s foremost chaos agent,” Davis told San José Spotlight. “I want no part of a platform that ‘verifies’ accounts based on how much they pay rather than actually proving they are who they say they are.”
Davis said she communicates more effectively with residents in person, through email and other social media platforms, so she doesn’t anticipate her departure from Twitter will keep residents in the dark.
Patrick McGarrity, spokesperson for San Jose Councilmember and Santa Clara County Supervisor-elect Sylvia Arenas, said she’s considering leaving the platform.
“Councilmember Arenas has been appalled by the serious rise in antisemitism and racism that Twitter appears to have not just allowed, but welcomed,” McGarrity told San José Spotlight. “It is particularly tragic, because Twitter is an important public square for our local community.”
Twitter’s ability to reach residents is why officials like Mayor Sam Liccardo and Congressman Ro Khanna want to stay on the site, their offices told San José Spotlight. Others like Councilmember Sergio Jimenez and Vice Mayor Chappie Jones don’t frequent the site enough to feel inclined to leave.
“I am such a light user of social media that it hasn’t been on my radar whether to leave,” Jones told San José Spotlight. “Ninety-nine percent of my tweets are informational.”
Rosen—who heads the largest prosecutor’s office in Northern California—hopes his decision will motivate other DAs to follow his lead.
“I ask other district attorneys around our nation to join me in standing against hatred and bigotry by leaving Twitter,” Rosen said. “As American prosecutors, we speak with one voice—against crime, violence, greed and hatred. 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.’”