Amid Twitter’s miserable financial health and its CEO Elon Musk’s firing spree, the micro-blogging platform is in no position currently to protect its users from trolling and state-driven disinformation campaigns, the latest report revealed.
Current and former employees of the social media company told the BBC that tools to protect Twitter users from hate speech are proving difficult to maintain, as layoffs hit content safety, moderation and policy teams hard.
Twitter is down to less than 2,000 employees, from more than 7,500 just a few months ago, as Elon Musk keeps on firing staff indiscriminately.
“Hate is now thriving under Elon Musk’s leadership, with trolls emboldened, harassment intensifying and a spike in accounts following misogynistic and abusive profiles,” the BBC report noted.
Harassment campaigns aimed at curbing freedom of expression, and foreign influence operations, once removed daily from the platform, are now going “undetected”, another source informed the BBC.
Elon Musk brought in engineers from his electric car venture Tesla and asked them to evaluate engineers’ code over just a few days before undertaking the latest round of employee downsizing. These codes reportedly take months to understand.
US Senator Ed Markey has also called on Elon Musk to bring the accessibility team back as differently-abled people have reported increased difficulty and frustration using the platform.
“You recently eliminated Twitter’s Accessibility Team, which played a crucial role in developing and implementing essential features for Twitter users with disabilities,” he wrote to Elon Musk.
Elon Musk just finished his fourth round of layoffs at Twitter, which impacted more than 200 employees like product managers, engineers, and a number of people in data science teams.
The billionaire entered into a soup as he mocked Haraldur Thorleifsson, a Twitter employee, who came to know about his firing as his access to his work computer was cut abruptly.
After nine days of silence from his company over his employment status, Thorleifsson tagged his CEO in a tweet, saying, “Dear @elonmusk, 9 days ago the access to my work computer was cut, along with about 200 other Twitter employees. However your head of HR is not able to confirm if I am an employee or not. You’ve not answered my emails. Maybe if enough people retweet you’ll answer me here?”
In response, the billionaire remarked, “The reality is that this guy (who is independently wealthy) did no actual work, claimed as his excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, yet was simultaneously tweeting up a storm. Can’t say I have a lot of respect for that,” after getting involved in a Twitter exchange with Thorleifsson, who reportedly has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair. Elon Musk questioned the person’s role in the micro-blogging platform, apart from questioning his disability and the need for accommodations, before coming to the conclusion that Thorleifsson has a “prominent, active Twitter account and is wealthy” and the “reason he confronted me in public was to get a big payout”.
Thorleifsson, an Iceland resident, has close to 160,000 Twitter followers as against Elon Musk’s 130 million and joined the micro-blogging platform in 2021. After the furore over Elon Musk’s response to his former employee, the billionaire has now apologised.
Meanwhile, the United States Federal Trade Commission has launched a probe into Twitter, while demanding the social media company submit all correspondence with Elon Musk, as well as detailed data on the recent job cuts.
The Washington Post has reported that the regulatory body is worried that these layoffs could negatively affect Twitter’s capability to safeguard consumers’ information.
Image Credits: TED YouTube