Twitter moderation cuts felt most outside US and Canada – Reuters

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SAN FRANCISCO — Elon Musk’s redesign of Twitter has been accompanied by an increase in digital harassment of religious and ethnic minorities in some of its largest markets outside the US — and it’s also starting to take a toll on the physical world, according to current and former employees and professionals studying the issue.

Musk has fired or accepted layoffs of about three-quarters of Twitter’s employees since its $44 billion takeover in late October. He also fired thousands of contractors who monitored the site for insults and threats.

These cuts were deeper outside of North America, where more than 75% of the company’s 280 million daily users live, where Twitter already had fewer moderators who understood local languages ​​and cultures, and where the political landscape could be chaotic and prone to violence. .

Twitter cannot afford to be one of the most influential websites in the world, the document says.

Musk also had thousands of suspended accounts, many of which were suspended for promoting hate or violence, although he personally tweeted misinformation and interacted with far-right accounts. Sensing an opportunity, if not a welcome one, politicians and attention-seeking speculators rushed to fill the void left by the moderation waiver, staffers say.

This has changed the content of the site in the second market, Japan, where it is estimated to have around 59 million users, and made it more difficult for India (nearly 24 million users) and Brazil (nearly 20 million). and the fourth largest market, according to current and former employees and researchers. Musk has cut virtually all of his staff in Brazil, fueling a rampant rise in disinformation that has fueled this month’s attacks on the country’s government center.

Even in the more moderate English-speaking world, Twitter’s tone has become tougher, say those tasked with overseeing the site. Australia’s Electronic Safety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant, who worked at Twitter from 2014 to 2016, told the Washington Post that the platform was already like a “collector” in her country before Musk let in some of the worst users.

“You can’t expect them to not behave like sewer rats, and you should probably expect other pests to spread to users,” said Inman Grant, who wrote to the company twice and reminded that this could lead to abuse. the equipment is to be dismantled. “It’s becoming a cesspool.”

Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said he was surprised by the strong attacks on a campaign to persuade more Indigenous people to register to vote ahead of a referendum due next year on whether the legislature should have Aboriginal Advisory Council. “We are following him very closely. It was an empty race for what we can see when this referendum takes place,” he said.

According to Timothy Graham, a digital media expert at Queensland University of Technology, the number of tweets from accounts in the Sydney area using the two most common gay slurs has doubled in the last three weeks of November.

“It’s reasonable to say that the breakup of Elon Musk from the Twitter security team and severe moderation cuts are impacting these trends,” Graham said. “At the very least, this strongly suggests that Elon’s claims to reduce hate speech are exaggerated. On the contrary, the trend is upward.

In Australia, Twitter is laying off even more employees.

Insiders Say Musk’s Free Speech Program Wrecks Twitter’s Security Work

Entire teams monitoring Asian countries, including Japan, are now all but gone, including those in charge of local security, trust and security, and legal matters.

Twitter staff in Singapore and elsewhere in Asia have been working on disinformation outside the immediate region, monitoring content about everything from the war in Ukraine, protests in Iran, and major elections in markets where Twitter has less presence. The teams stepped up their efforts to identify and remove Russian disinformation about the war in Ukraine when their computers were shut down on November 4.

“People who were in the United States, by virtue of their location, mainly dealt with the United States. Outside, we took everything else. This covert sloppiness has been in business before, and now it’s worsened,” said a former employee who worked on disinformation in the Asia-Pacific region, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss domestic matters.

India was the focus of Twitter moderation before the layoffs because it was a priority market and because political disinformation was common there, as well as legitimate protests. Moderation in this country has plummeted with downsizing.

In the past, employees could flag any misinformation or hate speech, while curatorial teams paid less attention to particularly biased hashtags or hate speech against minority groups.

A former Twitter employee said the November 18 post written by provocateur Suresh Chavhanke would have “definitely” been removed earlier for violating the platform’s policies.

The media entrepreneur and militant Hindu nationalist has shared a wedding invitation for an interfaith couple due to take place two days later at an event hall in a suburb of Mumbai — just weeks after the murder of a Hindu woman from the same area, allegedly by her Muslim boyfriend. , made national news.

Elon Musk’s free speech agenda poses global security risks

“How is this still going on even after a heartbreaking crime?” Chavkhanke demanded an answer. He added the hashtag #lovejihad_ActOfTerrorism, a reference to a popular but false claim in India that Muslim men are basically waging a religious war by seducing Hindu women.

Chavhanke’s post received over 5,700 retweets and 10,000 likes, with some of his followers urging locals to stop the marriage. Activists tried to tag his post by tagging and emailing Twitter employees, but to no avail. The couple’s relatives were inundated with phone calls, the venue’s owner told Newslaundry. By evening, the families canceled the wedding.

Chavhanke has since gone even further, tweeting out a new email address and phone number for whistleblowers across India to report on interfaith relations.

Alt News and SM Hoax Slayer, two Indian social media fact-checking and advocacy groups, said they tried to alert Twitter via email of Chavhanke’s posting about interfaith marriage. Nothing happened.

“There has to be someone there to make the decision to withdraw the funds. I don’t know if they have the bandwidth,” said Pratik Sinha, co-founder of Alt News.

Current and former employees in India have said they are concerned about both the reduction in moderation teams and the departure of lesser known teams that have been improving the platform, including exposing misinformation.

In the past, Sinha of Alt News said, “They increased the number of fact checks by several times when the curatorial team was there.”

During a tense 2021 election in India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, an employee said Twitter’s content curation group promoted Indian fact-checkers who debunked fake reports of ballot box tampering.

The team hasn’t posted anything related to India of late, although fake photos have again become a problem in the closely monitored elections in the state of Gujarat.

In Japan, Twitter’s largest market outside of the US, staff cuts and other changes have changed perceptions of the service, but have not sparked excitement.

In the past, a small team organized and promoted interesting topics, making Twitter an important resource for anonymous discussion of serious issues. This has led to more diverse perspectives on political and cultural issues than the relatively homogeneous media.

But with the news curation team gone, the most popular topics that pop up automatically are less about political events and more about entertainment, according to a survey of messages found.

Users said topics that have disappeared from their timeline in recent weeks have included the controversial issue of the US military presence in Okinawa and socially sensitive topics such as infertility and feminism.

Users reported that they no longer see tweets on issues such as human rights or criticism of the administration of Shinzo Abe, the politically minded leader who was killed in July.

While this disappointed some serious Twitter users, others were relieved.

“There are no current political topics on Twitter anymore. How peaceful,” wrote one of them.

Shi reported from Delhi, Miller from Sydney and Menn from San Francisco. Shibani Mahtani in Singapore and Julia Mio Inuma in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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