Twitter Insiders Fear Elon Musk Heralds a Troll Takeover

Jon Bell, a designer who beforehand labored on Twitter’s anti-abuse staff, says weakening Twitter’s moderation could be a mistake. Outsiders—together with Bell earlier than he joined the corporate—typically don’t notice how a lot work it takes to forestall the positioning from being overrun by poisonous content material, he says. Although Twitter has been criticized for not doing sufficient to comprise abuse and harassment, it has developed instruments and processes that considerably scale back the quantity, Bell says. “Everything Musk is talking about would undo that.”

In 2016, Twitter established a council of unbiased organizations to supply recommendation on on-line security. Alex Holmes, deputy CEO of UK nonprofit the Diana Award, which is a member of the council, says he’s now not sure how that work can proceed. “Understandably, there are concerns about how this would be possible if freedom of speech is prioritized to a detrimental extent,” he says. Holmes says he has heard related considerations from Twitter staff.

Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO and president of GLAAD, a nonprofit that promotes LGBTQ rights and can also be on Twitter’s advisory council, tweeted Monday that Musk’s possession made her “nervous for the online safety of the LGBTQ community.”

To consider Musk would get up for ladies and others focused on the platform could be “foolish,” says Brianna Wu, a recreation developer and software program engineer who was in touch with Twitter’s Trust and Safety staff till 2020, after being focused with abuse through the marketing campaign of on-line harassment often called Gamergate in 2014. “He’s a billionaire version of the alt-right troll.”

After Twitter took motion in opposition to her trolls, Wu continued to doc harassment on the platform, notably in opposition to girls and members of marginalized communities, to share with Twitter.

Wu stated she by no means bought the sense that Twitter’s Trust and Safety staff made choices motivated by politics, a declare levied on the platform by a few of its critics. “They had a version of their product that was bad for users, and it was in good faith that they were trying to figure out how to make it better,” says Wu.

By taking the corporate personal, Musk would additionally eradicate the accountability {that a} board and shareholders can convey to a publicly traded firm. Activist traders have beforehand filed resolutions to try to push Twitter, and different social media corporations, in direction of targets like extra sturdy moderation insurance policies and extra environmentally pleasant operations.

Andrew Behar, CEO of the nonprofit As You Sow, which represents a bunch of activist Twitter shareholders, says Twitter below Musk will doubtless look quite a bit like Meta (previously Facebook) below Mark Zuckerberg.

“You have one person in charge. Mark Zuckerberg makes all the decisions. No matter what resolution you file, he owns a 10 to 1 voting preference,” says Behar. “There’s a lot of danger when you have all that power isolated in one person like Zuckerberg. Now we’ve got that with Twitter.”

Natasha Lamb, managing companion at Arjuna Capital, a boutique funding agency that owns Twitter shares, says she worries that even when Musk owns Twitter, it received’t have his full consideration. “Twitter is too important to be a hobby,” she says.

Lamb stated Arjuna is just not prone to vote in favor of the acquisition. “I think he’s a brilliant engineer,” she says. “I’m not sure he’s a civil rights expert. I don’t think he’s an expert on free speech.”

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