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Elon Musk’s Twitter Does Away With Trust And Safety Council

Elon Musk sits outside, staring blankly into the distance, wearing a shirt reading "occupy mars"

And the Twitter dumpster fire grows brighter.

Astronauts at NASA have reported that the Twitter dumpster fire is able to be seen from orbit, and is burning at such a high temperature that it could actually be considered a small star. This does not come as a surprise to the scientific community, as scientists had predicted that the conflagration would grow to astronomical levels (quite literally) after the blue check disaster and the threat of an EU ban.

Scientists are now preparing for the dumpster fire to reach quasar-level brightness after it was announced that Twitter would be doing away with its Trust and Safety Council, no doubt replacing it with a Paranoia and Danger Cabal. Such a development could risk the complete incineration of the Earth’s atmosphere.

But Seriously, What Happened?

It’s true, Elon Musk’s Twitter is doing away with its Trust and Safety Council. Why should you be concerned? Well, on a philosophical level it’s disconcerting seeing anything related to “trust” and “safety” being purged from any megacorporation, not that there was much there to begin with. However, the Twitter Trust and Safety council’s primary job was to ensure that Twitter was free from graphic depictions of violence, child sexual exploitation, and hate speech. The council also worked to promote suicide prevention, mental health, and human rights. According to a now-defunct page on Twitter’s website, the council was made up of external organizations that specialized in each of these issues in order to retain some level of transparency and third-party validation in the platform.

Elon Musk is having none of it.

According to NPR, members of the council had been scheduled to meet with Twitter representatives on Monday night, but instead received an email from the platform that informed them that the council would be disbanded. Members of the council provided photos of the email to the Associated Press, but stressed that they wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. From what? At the rate Twitter is going, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a hit squad called the “Blue Checks” who dress up in bird masks and carry automatic shotguns. But that’s neither here nor there.

The email read: “Our work to make Twitter a safe, informative place will be moving faster and more aggressively than ever before,” which is a bit of a concerning turn of phrase already. I don’t quite understand how the concept of “safety” can be pursued “faster” and “more aggressively”, but maybe that’s just me. The email went on to say that the company is “reevaluating how best to bring external insights” adding that the council is “not the best structure to do this”.

The Trust and Safety council was originally composed entirely of volunteer organizations that offered guidance on how Twitter could combat harassment but had no authority to make decisions. It also did not involve itself in specific content disputes. After purchasing the company in October, Elon Musk made an announcement that Twitter would be forming a new “content moderation council” but later changed his mind.

This startling announcement comes on the heels of mass resignations from Twitter, including three previous members of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council who threw in the towel after Elon Musk began to enact sweeping policy changes. The trio left a public statement on Twitter explaining their decision, which read “contrary to claims by Elon Musk, the safety and wellbeing of Twitter’s users are on the decline.” Musk was quick to fire back, claiming that the three members, along with Twitter’s past leadership “refused to take action on child exploitation for years” in a Tweet. Naturally, this led to a slew of online attacks against the three former council members from the millions of man-child Muskateers that truly do seem to believe that Musk quite literally shits gold.

The pushback against Musk’s decision has been equally vehement, with thousands of Twitter users lambasting the decision. The Anti-Defamation League was quick to comment on the travesty as well. According to a statement from Yael Eisenstat, vice president of the ADL’s Center for Technology and Society, the organization finds it “disappointing that the council was dissolved because its members had valuable insights about how to make their platform a safer place for all users”. Eisenstat went on to say that the ADL had been an instrumental part of the of the Trust and Safety Council, and was heavily involved because they “strongly believed that social media companies should learn from the best practices of civil society and those communities most affected by hate, harassment, and extremism online on how to best address these issues”.

Other members of the now-defunct Trust and Safety Council included the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Rati Foundation, and YAKIN (Youth Adult Survivors and Kin in Need). All of these organizations were involved in protecting children on the platform, which flies in the face of Elon Musk’s tweet that the council had been doing nothing to stop child exploitation. Elon Musk has not commented on this, but his response will most likely consist of a shoulder shrug and the statement “eh.”

According to Patricia Cartes, the former Twitter employee who formed the council back in 2016, Elon Musk’s disbandment of the organization means that there are “no more checks and balances” against Twitter’s policymaking procedures, and elaborated by saying that the purpose of the council was to provide a global perspective on how those policies may effect communities. Elon Musk has probably had his fill of “checks” after the blue check fiasco that tanked stock prices everywhere, and no doubt the only “balances” he’s concerned about are the ones in his bank accounts. As for “policies,” I’m guessing he’s only concerned about those related to insurance, considering that he may find himself to be cash-poor if he continues to drive Twitter into the ground.

As of now, Elon Musk’s only content moderation policy has been putting things up for a vote online, which as Winston Churchill would say, is the perfect argument against democracy. Churchill thought that anyone with a brain would be turned off by the idea after “a five minute conversation with the average voter”. After five minutes of scrolling through the tweets of Musk’s supporters, I’m inclined to agree.

(image: Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images)

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