Sun. Dec 4th, 2022

New Twitter owner Elon Musk is further gutting the social media platform’s anti-disinformation teams as external moderators learned they were out of a job over the weekend.

Twitter and other major social media companies have relied heavily on contractors to monitor hate speech and enforce policies against harmful content.

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But many of those content supervisors are now on the way out, first when Twitter laid off a large portion of its full-time workforce via email on Nov. 4, and now as it tries to eliminate untold numbers of contract jobs.

Melissa Ingle, who has worked at Twitter as a contractor for more than a year, was one of a number of contractors who said they were fired on Saturday. She said she was concerned there would be an increase in abuse on Twitter with the number of workers leaving.

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“I love the platform and have really enjoyed working at the company and trying to make it better. And I’m really afraid of what’s going to slip through the cracks,” she said on Sunday.

Ingle, a data scientist, said she worked on the data and monitoring arm of Twitter’s civic integrity team. Her work involved writing algorithms to find platform political disinformation in countries such as the US, Brazil, Japan, Argentina and elsewhere.

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The changing landscape of social media

Ingle said she was “pretty sure I was done” when she couldn’t access her work email on Saturday. The notification from the contracting company where she was employed arrived two hours later.

“I’ll just put out my resumes and talk to people,” she said. “I’ve got two kids. And I’m worried about whether I’ll be able to give them a nice Christmas, you know, and simple things like that are important. I just think it’s particularly insensitive to do this at this time.”

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Content moderation expert Sarah Roberts, an associate professor at UCLA who worked as a researcher at Twitter earlier this year, said she believed at least 3,000 contract workers were laid off Saturday night.

Twitter has not announced how many contract workers it has laid off. The company has not responded to media requests for information since Musk took office.

At Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters and other offices, contract workers wore green badges, while full-time workers wore blue badges. Contractors did a number of jobs to keep Twitter running, including engineering and marketing, Roberts said. But the massive force of contract moderators was “critical” to the platform, Roberts said.

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Cutting them will have a “tangible impact on the platform experience,” she said.

Musk promised to loosen speech restrictions when he took over Twitter. But in the early days after Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion in late October and fired its board and executives, the billionaire Tesla CEO sought to reassure rights groups and advertisers that the platform could continue to crack down on hate and hate-fueled violence. .

That message was echoed by Twitter’s head of content moderation at the time, Yoel Roth, who tweeted that the layoffs since Nov. 4 affected only “15% of our Trust & Safety organization (as opposed to approximately 50% cuts across the company), with our staff for frontline moderation has the least impact.”

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Roth has since resigned from the company, joining an exodus of high-level executives charged with privacy, cybersecurity and compliance.

© 2022 The Canadian Press