Less than an hour before its members’ Zoom meeting with corporate management, Twitter abolished its Trust and Safety Council through email, according to The Washington Post and NPR. The email stated that the members’ assistance was no longer required, contrary to reports that the council was scheduled to examine recent updates and modifications made to the website under Elon Musk. They were informed that the council is no longer “the ideal framework to do this” and that Twitter is “reevaluating how best to introduce external insights.”
Only a few days after three of the group’s members left their voluntary posts, the firm decided to dissolve the group. They said in their letter that despite Musk’s assertions, the safety of Twitter users is deteriorating and that the executive shouldn’t be permitted to choose what constitutes digital safety. Musk tweeted: “It is a crime that they neglected to take action on child exploitation for years!” in response to the news of their departure. Following that post, according to NPR, some members demanded in writing to Twitter that the business stop misrepresenting the council’s function as attacks against previous and present advisors kept getting worse.
The Trust and Safety Council members aren’t employees handling moderation on the website, and they have no power to make decisions or to review banned accounts and specific tweets. They’re a group of external advisors from expert and anti-abuse organizations, including the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, YAKIN (Youth Adult Survivors & Kin in Need), the Samaritans, and GLAAD, volunteering their time to help Twitter figure out how to fight hate and harassment. When Twitter formed the council in 2016, it said the group’s purpose is to make the website a less toxic place so that “anyone, anywhere can express themselves safely and confidently.”
Another member, the Committee to Protect Journalists, has confirmed to AFKFree that it received a letter from Twitter announcing the council’s dissolution. Twitter told the committee that it plans to continue engaging with partner organizations through “bilateral or small group meetings” and “regional contacts.” CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg also said: “Mechanisms such as the Trust and Safety Council help platforms like Twitter to understand how to address harm and counter behavior that targets journalists. Safety online can mean survival offline. Today’s decision to dissolve the Trust and Safety Council is cause for grave concern, particularly as it is coupled with increasingly hostile statements by Twitter owner Elon Musk about journalists and the media.”
More members were on the verge of resigning before the group was dissolved, Larry Magid, chief executive of Silicon Valley nonprofit ConnectSafely, told The Post. He said: “By disbanding [the council] , we got fired instead of quit. Elon doesn’t want criticism, and he doesn’t want the kind of advice he would very likely get from a safety advisory council, which would likely tell him to rehire some of the staff he got rid of, and reinstate some of the rules he got rid of, and turn the company in another direction from where he is turning it.”
Musk said in October that he will form a “moderation council” made up of members with “widely diverse viewpoints” before he reinstates banned accounts. But in an interview in November, he admitted that he will still have the final say in making decisions. Twitter has yet to introduce a moderation council, but Musk has already reinstated previously banned accounts, such as Donald Trump’s and Andrew Anglin’s, the neo-Nazi creator of The Daily Stormer.
Update 12/13/22 2:52 AM ET: Add statement and information from the Committee to Protect Journalists.
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