How Elon Musk is wrecking social network he just bought

Elon Musk and his "bird"/Euroradio collage
Elon Musk and his "bird"/Euroradio collage

The scandal surrounding Twitter continues. Thousands of people who are not ready to work in the hardcore mode announced by the new owner, one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs on Earth, Elon Musk, are leaving the company. Another reason is Musk's policy and attitude toward user verification and message moderation.

"I don't even know what everything is hanging on there now," Natallia Krapiva, a lawyer from the international digital rights organization Access Now, said about the situation. "Yes, Musk stopped the paid verification of Twitter Blue, which he reported earlier, but this does not mean he will not return to his idea. We know that a bunch of people was fired, and some left on their own: the Chief of the Trust & Safety Team, CISO, chief compliance officer, and chief policy officer. The entire HR team was fired. Twitter also said goodbye to more than three thousand contractors, apparently those who did live moderation of content.

Gone from the team were the specialists who provided 24-hour technical support to internal departments and maintained key system libraries used by all engineering teams. In addition, the media report that the entire team of the Gizmoduck service, which "stores data from user profiles," has left the company.

On November 17, 2022, Twitter announced that it was closing its offices and turning off employee passes until November 21. The new owner probably wants to figure out who will remain on his team and protect his business against possible sabotage.

In an interview with Euroradio, Natallia Krapiva explains why everything happening on Twitter today is vital for Belarusians and the Eastern European region. 

”Покойся с миром, Twitter”. Как Илон Маск гробит приобретённую им же соцсеть
Lawyer Natallia Krapiva / Archive

Natallia Krapiva: We are very concerned that there will come new people who will not understand our context. We have been afraid of it from the very start when Musk was still announcing the purchase of Twitter. Upon taking office, the new owner demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the crises going on in the world, maybe except for the United States. Nor does he realize how Twitter's changes will affect vulnerable populations in repressed states like Belarus and countries at war like Ukraine.

Euroradio: Elon Musk has suspended paid verification on the social network, which many human rights activists have criticized. Why has paid verification made so much noise? On his page, the businessman even joked about the small sum of $8.

Natallia Krapiva: Verification, or the blue tick next to the profile: I think that not everybody understands this status's importance. Especially for civil organizations, journalists, activists, and public figures in countries where they are subject to repression.

It used to be very difficult to get verified. It's a process that requires a lot of effort to prove that you are, for example, a public person, an organization, or a media outlet.

Individuals who support a repressive regime often post false information from fake activist profiles to put them in jail and incite hatred and violence in society. Getting verified is essential, and Musk would charge for it. If eight dollars a month isn't expensive for him, it's a lot of money for many people in Latin America, for example.

I also think he forgets that Internet users, including civil society activists, cannot use Western payment systems in sanctioned countries like Russia, Venezuela, or Syria.  
This creates a situation: they cannot pay for verification even if they have money. Verification fees will result in the most vulnerable segments of society being unable to protect themselves. The problem is severe.

Euroradio: Thousands of professionals are leaving Twitter. What are the possible consequences?

Natallia Krapiva: First, we recommend that Elon Musk respect human rights. So far, this is not happening. Unfortunately, the people responsible for ensuring that the social network respects people's rights are leaving the company. One of the first was Cindia Wong, who headed the Human Rights Department at Twitter. I think she saw the situation coming. After her, other members of the team were forced to leave. In essence, they were forced out.

We demand that this stop. The potential damage is severe. Once again, we ask that Elon Musk respect the rights of users, especially the most vulnerable ones, who will now suffer from his rash actions that have nothing to do with international law, but appear to be based only on his personal beliefs.

Euroradio: Why is there a need for a Human Rights Department on Twitter?  

Natallia Krapiva: Similar departments exist at Google, Instagram and Facebook. Their employees ensure that the company meets international human rights standards. So that companies do not violate, for example, the right to freedom of expression, but at the same time, messages do not spread hate speech or misinformation that can harm users and society as a whole. Also, in these kinds of departments, the regional context must be given a great deal of attention when making certain decisions for companies. 

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