Washington: Owner of Twitter Elon Musk The platform has vowed not to become “hell,” but experts fear that the staff exodus following mass layoffs may have destroyed its ability to combat disinformation, impersonation, and data theft.
Twitter It moved into what activists described as a pit of lies and hate speech after recent layoffs killed half the company’s 7,500 employees and fake accounts proliferated after its failed introduction of paid verification.
More throw influential platform In the chaos — and suspicious of its existence — hundreds of employees reportedly chose to leave the company on Thursday, in defiance of Musk’s ultimatum.
“The sheer number of layoffs and resignations raises serious questions about content moderation and the security of user data,” said Cheyenne Hunt-Majer, of the nonprofit Public Citizen. France Press agency.
“It is imperative that (US regulators) act quickly as users could have their sensitive data exploited or even stolen since there are not enough staff remaining to adequately protect it.”
The hashtag #RIPTwitter gained massive traction on the site after an influx of resignations from employees who chose “no” to Musk’s request to either be “too hard” or walk out of the company.
Twitter has plunged into turmoil as Musk, who purports to be a supporter of free speech, seeks to shake up the loss-making company after his massive $44 billion acquisition late last month.
According to reports and tweets, the site’s content moderation teams — largely outside contractors fighting disinformation — and a number of engineers were fired after publicly criticizing Musk on Twitter or on an internal message board.
Caution brands have paused or slowed ad spending – Twitter’s biggest source of revenue – after a spike in racist and antisemitic trolling on the platform.
“Superspreaders of disinformation” — or untrustworthy accounts that promote falsehoods — saw a 57 percent jump in engagement in the week after Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, according to a survey by the nonprofit watchdog group NewsGuard.
“Elon Musk has quickly decimated Twitter’s ability to maintain the integrity, health and safety of the platform,” said Jessica Gonzalez, co-CEO of the nonpartisan group Free Press.
“If there is one lesson all social media platforms should take away from this debacle, it is that without protecting your users from hate and lies you will never have a company.”
In response to critics, Musk on Friday signaled a new direction for content moderation on the site.
Although not completely removed from the site, Musk said that “negative/hateful” tweets will be “unpublished (and removed) at a maximum, and therefore no advertising or other revenue on Twitter.”
He added, “You will not find the tweet unless you specifically search for it, which is no different from the rest of the Internet.”
But his plan fell on skeptical ears.
“We can certainly see a rise in misinformation, hate speech and other objectionable content because of Musk’s recent actions,” Zev Sanderson, executive director of the New York University Center on Social Media and Politics, told AFP.
“Content moderation is very difficult without the people out there actually moderating the content.”
Possible addition to the pressure: Musk on Saturday reinstated Donald Trump’s Twitter account, 22 months after the then-president was suspended over the Capitol riot by his supporters seeking to overturn the result of the 2020 election.
In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, a regulatory agency, a group of Democratic senators blamed Musk for introducing “disturbing” new features that undermined safety despite warnings that it was “misused for fraud, fraud and dangerous impersonation.”
“Users are already facing serious implications of the growth-at-all-costs strategy,” they wrote in the letter, which was published Thursday, pointing to a recent rise in fake accounts impersonating corporations, politicians and celebrities.
Among the victims was pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, whose share price plummeted — wiping billions off market value — after a satirical account stamped with a Bought for $8 verification mark tweeted that insulin had become freely available.
Last week, Twitter took sign-ups for its controversial feature known as Twitter Blue, reportedly temporarily disabled to help address impersonation issues — but not before several brands took a hit.
Given the apparent vulnerabilities, digital experts have warned activists, particularly in authoritarian countries, of an increased risk of identity theft or their private messages falling into the hands of hackers.
“All over the world, Twitter is being used to organize against oppression,” said Hunt Mager.
“If Musk’s mismanagement kills her, it would be a huge blow to freedom of information and, frankly, human rights in general on a global scale.”