Kurt Wagner et al., Bloomberg, November 1, 2022
Twitter Inc., the social network being overhauled by new owner Elon Musk, has frozen some employee access to internal tools used for content moderation and other policy enforcement, curbing the staff’s ability to clamp down on misinformation ahead of a major US election.
Most people who work in Twitter’s Trust and Safety organization are currently unable to alter or penalize accounts that break rules around misleading information, offensive posts and hate speech, except for the most high-impact violations that would involve real-world harm, according to people familiar with the matter. Those posts were prioritized for manual enforcement, they said.
This restriction is part of a broader plan to freeze Twitter’s software code to keep employees from pushing changes to the app during the transition to new ownership. Typically this level of access is given to a group of people numbering in the hundreds, and that was initially reduced to about 15 people last week, according to two of the people, who asked not to be named discussing internal decisions. Musk completed his $44 billion deal to take the company private on Oct. 27.
The scaled-back content moderation has raised concerns among employees on Twitter’s Trust and Safety team, who believe the company will be short-handed in enforcing policies in the run-up to the US midterm election on Nov. 8. Trust and Safety employees are often tasked with enforcing Twitter’s misinformation and civic integrity policies — many of the same policies that former President Donald Trump routinely violated before and after the 2020 elections, the company said at the time.
Internally, employees say, Musk has raised questions about a number of the policies, and has zeroed in on a few specific rules that he wants the team to review. The first is Twitter’s general misinformation policy, which penalizes posts that include falsehoods about topics like election outcomes and Covid-19. Musk wants the policy to be more specific, according to people familiar with the matter.
Musk has also asked the team to review Twitter’s hateful conduct policy, according to the people, specifically a section that says users can be penalized for “targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.”