Twitter fired nearly half of its 7,500 employees on Friday, days ahead of next Tuesday’s midterm election in the United States, at a time when the circulation of false content on the social network is expected to increase.
The cuts, which followed the company’s controversial $44 billion purchase, affected multiple divisions including engineering and machine learning, as well as the trust and security teams that manage content moderation, according to reports.
“I’ll be very careful on this forum in the days to come … with what you retweet, who you follow and even your own perception of what’s going on,” said Kate Starbird, a disruptive researcher and assistant professor at the university. Washington.
On its own Twitter account, Starbird warned of an increased risk of “phishing” attempts, “manipulator-coordinated propaganda” and “fraud trying to spread lies”.
Jessica Gonzalez, co-executive director of the independent Free Press group, said she was concerned that Twitter’s content moderation efforts could be undermined before the election, “when social media is railroaded into misinformation, intimidation and harming voters.” Known to move away from color”.
Gonzalez said, “Twitter was in hell even before Musk took office, and his actions…
Twitter’s chief security and integrity officer Joel Roth tried to address those concerns, saying the platform’s front-line moderation staff were least affected by the cuts, and combating misinformation and damage during Tuesday’s election. Was “top priority”.
Roth tweeted, “As we say goodbye to incredibly talented friends and colleagues … the core of our sobriety abilities remains.”
– “deep concern” –
The Free Press is part of a coalition of more than 60 civil society groups that on Friday called on advertisers to boycott the platform unless it promised to be a “safe space”.
Coalition members met with Musk earlier this week after academic studies reported a dramatic increase in hate speech, Nazi memes and racist slurs since the time he bought the company.
A Montclair State University study found that the acquisition of Twitter by Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” had “created a belief among extremist users that content restrictions would be eased.”
“We met with Elon Musk earlier this week to express our deep concerns about some of his plans and the rise of toxic content following his acquisition,” the coalition said using the #StopToxicTwitter hashtag.
“Since that time, hate and misinformation have continued to spread, and Musk has taken steps that we are yet to fear,” the group said in a statement.
But Musk brushed off that assessment, tweeting: “We’ve seen hate speech fall *below* our previous criteria several times this week,” although he did not present data to support the claim.
“To be very clear, Twitter’s strong commitment to content moderation remains absolutely unchanged,” the billionaire wrote Friday.
Musk promised to ease Twitter’s content restrictions and, since the acquisition, has announced plans to create a “content moderation board” that will review the company’s policies.
“While Musk has made a public commitment to transparency, his decision to terminate the staff members dedicated to this work is deeply disturbing,” said Zeve Sanderson, executive director of the New York University Center for Social Media and Politics.
Musk insisted the layoffs were necessary because the company was losing more than $4 million a day.
Twitter has long struggled to turn a profit and has been unable to keep pace with Facebook, Instagram and TikTok in gaining new users.