Buy 2-year plan with SD20 code

Journalism of Courage
Advertisement

Elon Musk’s job cuts decimated Twitter team tackling child sexual abuse

Unlike other types of egregious content that violate Twitter’s rules, it’s illegal for the platform to host child sexual abuse material and, depending on the country, there are requirements to take down and report material within specific time limits. 

Twitter, Elon Musk, Twitter Child AbuseThe EU is also planning regulation that would require tech companies to take a more aggressive approach to detecting sexual abuse material. (Reuters Photo: Dado Ruvic)

Elon Musk has dramatically reduced the size of the Twitter Inc. team devoted to tackling child sexual exploitation on the platform, cutting the global team of experts in half and leaving behind an overwhelmed skeleton crew, people familiar with the matter said.

The team now has fewer than 10 specialists to review and escalate reports of child sexual exploitation, three people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified for fear of retaliation. At the beginning of the year, Twitter had a team of about 20, they said.

It comes as lawmakers in the European Union and the UK are planning broad-reaching online safety rules that will require social media platforms to better protect children or face significant fines.

Twitter didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Elon Musk has dramatically reduced the size of the Twitter Inc. team devoted to tackling child sexual exploitation on the platform, cutting the global team of experts in half and leaving behind an overwhelmed skeleton crew, people familiar with the matter said.

The team now has fewer than 10 specialists to review and escalate reports of child sexual exploitation, three people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified for fear of retaliation. At the beginning of the year, Twitter had a team of about 20, they said.

It comes as lawmakers in the European Union and the UK are planning broad-reaching online safety rules that will require social media platforms to better protect children or face significant fines.

Twitter didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Some prominent hashtags associated with child sexual exploitation have been removed since Musk took over, changes which had been in the works before he joined, the people said. Still, combating this type of messaging isn’t always as simple as removing tweets containing the offending hashtags since many have another, innocuous purpose, they said. Offenders also constantly change the terms they use to evade detection.


While artificial intelligence-based tools can be useful for identifying images that have already been reviewed and categorized as child sexual exploitation material by law enforcement, human review is particularly important for understanding the nuances of grooming and other exploitative behaviors, identifying previously unknown abusive images and videos, and understanding regional differences in the law, the people said. Humans are also required to respond to requests from law enforcement as part of criminal investigations.

Advertisement

Losing specialists in Europe and Singapore will make policing non-English speaking markets a particular challenge, the people said.

These specialists worked closely with dedicated product managers and engineers to build tools and automation to stop the spread of the material, as well as third-party contractors who helped triage posts that users reported. While only a few employees were cut in the first round of layoffs, the team was decimated when Musk called on Twitter’s workers to commit to a “hardcore” culture or lose their jobs, the people said. The people said that Musk didn’t create an environment where the team wanted to stay.

The defections were part of a broader exodus at Twitter’s trust and safety team, which left after Musk sent the ultimatum this month, people familiar with the matter said previously. The company’s also lost a significant number of its employees who block foreign disinformation campaigns on the platform and entire swathes of Twitter’s audience have been left without content moderation, one of the people said. In the Asia-Pacific region, just one contractor hired to help with spam in the Korean market remained, the person said.

Advertisement

Twitter has also cut a number of contractors who helped moderate content, Axios has reported. Social media platforms including Facebook, TikTok and Twitter use third-party moderators to help sift through flagged posts for violations.

Unlike other types of egregious content that violate Twitter’s rules, it’s illegal for the platform to host child sexual abuse material and, depending on the country, there are requirements to take down and report material within specific time limits.

In the UK, the Online Safety Bill gives regulators the power to fine platforms hosting user-generated content, including Twitter and other social media apps, as much as 10% of their revenue if they fail to police their platforms effectively.

The EU is also planning regulation that would require tech companies to take a more aggressive approach to detecting sexual abuse material.

The European Commission’s controversial proposal would give courts the power to require companies to scan for material in messages, even if they are end-to-end encrypted. The commission also wants companies to detect grooming via artificial intelligence and use age verification to find minors on their platforms.

Advertisement

“Elon Musk has been very vocal about his commitment to tackling online child sexual abuse,” said Ylva Johansson, the EU Commissioner in charge of the proposal. “I fully expect him to follow through on these public commitments.”

“Having experienced experts and teams in place, as well as those familiar with EU legislation seems to me an obvious baseline from which to scale up this fight,” she said.

Subscriber Only Stories
First published on: 29-11-2022 at 19:41 IST
  • 0
Next Story

First cruise vessel, after easing of COVID restrictions, arrives in Mangaluru Port

Tags:
  • Elon Musk Twitter
Home
ePaper
Next Story
close
Faizan Mustafa writesInstead of criminalising child marriage, Assam CM should heed PM's call of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao
X