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An impersonator paying for a blue “verified” checkmark. A devastating team of workers enforcing rules against hate speech and other offensive posts. A mass media campaign by right-wing activists targeting political opponents.
Under the chaotic changes unleashed by Elon Musk, US Twitter users are facing a problem that has long plagued social networks in other parts of the world. The problem risks getting worse under new billionaire owners. and a free speech advocate.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan, executive director of Equality Labs, an advocate for the rights of Dalits, India’s lowest tier community, said: caste hierarchy. “I think Musk lacks cultural competence. He has not received proper legal advice on this matter, and his whims alone endanger the lives of millions.” .
While Musk has not spoken publicly about the impact his vision will have on Twitter outside the United States, activists and supporters have voiced concerns about how social media has enabled and exacerbated political, ethnic and religious conflicts. It points to a wealth of examples, from genocide in Myanmar to mob killings, from India to the Ethiopian civil war.
Mishi Choudhary, attorney and founder of the Software Freedom Law Center, a digital rights organization in India, said: “I generally say we’re watching the same reality TV show,” she added, adding, “India is two or three seasons ahead of the West.
Layoffs crumble internationally focused teams
Musk’s recent announcement to “pardon” many suspended Twitter accounts following an unscientific poll of Twitter users is a warning about how the platform could be abused. The company has already started reviving about 62,000 accounts with more than 10,000 followers, according to tech newsletter Platformer.
“Twitter and all other platforms have always struggled to effectively enforce their content moderation guidelines and other policies outside the United States, especially in non-Western countries,” said Shannon McGregor, professor of communications studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “There aren’t enough people who understand the language, the culture, the politics, and get involved in these things.”
And that was before Musk laid off more than half of Twitter’s staff, with teams outside the United States hit particularly hard, eliminating thousands of contractors. Many of them have the arduous daily task of monitoring millions of tweets. Hundreds of employees have resigned without committing to the CEO’s call for a new “hardcore” Twitter.
Twitter’s human rights team Gone. So do investigative groups tracking state-backed domestic operations efforts in high-risk countries such as Honduras, Ethiopia and India, according to former employees. Its team fighting propaganda has been “fundamentally curtailed,” he said. washington post report.
Twitter, which laid off its communications staff, did not respond to NPR’s questions about this article.and blog post In a statement issued on Thursday, the company said its policies had not changed and it was “committed to providing a safe, inclusive, enjoyable and beneficial experience for everyone.” .
“Our Trust & Safety team continues its diligent work to keep the platform safe from hateful behavior, abuse, and violations of Twitter’s rules,” the “Twitter team” said. The byline post said. “Our team remains strong and well-resourced, and automated detection is playing an increasingly important role in eliminating exploits.”
But automation isn’t perfect. This week, Twitter’s software failed to detect a newly posted video showing an attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019. The company said it only removed the clip after being warned by the New Zealand government. Guardian.
Automated systems also require human input to reflect the cultural and linguistic challenges of companies operating around the world.
“Before Musk bought Twitter, it was understood internally that the South Asian market, including India, was a country of mass atrocities. One tweet could trigger a pogrom.” .
As a member of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council (an external advisory group), Soundararajan’s group works with the company to provide feedback on potential risks of various features and to identify race used to police the platform. I made a list of racist, casteist and sexist slurs.
Since Musk took control, the Trust and Safety Council group has not met or communicated with the new owners.
“At the beginning of November, we received an email in principle acknowledging the staffing change and informing us that we would be in touch in December,” Soundararajan said.
Meanwhile, the Twitter staff with whom Soundararajan normally stays in touch has disappeared.
Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images
blue check mark potential abuse
Against that backdrop, Musk’s plans to relaunch a subscription service that rewards accounts with the checkmark badge previously used by Twitter to indicate that Twitter has verified the identity of a high-profile account A further source of concern.
The initial rollout of this feature allowed anyone to purchase a $8/month subscription and receive a blue checkmark without verifying their identity. Accounts impersonating celebrities, businesses, and politicians soon emerged, forcing Twitter to stop signing up.
Musk said the feature would return with different colored checkmarks for different types of accounts, and that from now on all verified accounts would be “manually verified.” It’s not clear how Twitter verifies accounts or whether it has enough staff to do so.
Former employees and experts warn there is a high risk of abuse, especially by those who use the feature to influence public discourse.
Joan Donovan, director of research for the Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, said:
Long before Musk actually put Checkmark up for sale, Twitter battled bad actors illegally selling verified accounts in places like the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa.
In Nigeria, for example, verified accounts have historically traded for at least $5,000, according to Rosemary Ajayi, principal investigator at the Digital Africa Research Lab. One of her accounts impersonating Nigeria’s ruling party held verified checks from 2015 to 2019, and in the process she gained 1 million followers, she said.
“It costs money, but people are doing it in countries with high poverty rates. [many] Will more people buy it for $8 a month?” she asked.
The risks will only increase with numerous elections looming, from Nigeria, Turkey and Thailand in 2023 to India, Mexico, Taiwan, the European Parliament and, of course, the US presidential election in 2024.
Freedom of Speech Outside the United States
While Musk’s changes may make Twitter more dangerous, free-speech advocates wonder what his professed free-speech commitments mean outside the US. I am wondering if
Twitter is suing the Indian government over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s order to censor critics, resisting some of Modi’s efforts to crack down on social media.
“It seems like his free speech concerns are just about the people he thinks he should be on this platform — U.S.-centric people with some kind of politics,” said India’s Digital Rights. Lawyer Choudhary said.
Although only a fraction of India’s 1.4 billion population use Twitter, it is influential among politicians, media and activists.
She said it was unclear what Musk’s relationship with the Indian government would be. Especially given that in his role as CEO of electric car maker Tesla, he has other business interests in India.
“I rely on the fact that Twitter has not yielded to pressure from my government and continues to allow me to speak out no matter what I say to them.” or [that] Whether it’s litigation or resistance to the government, he intends to keep going. “