The Twitter content you see is evolving. Yes, but how?
Elon Musk, the current owner of the social media site, has been seeking to demonstrate, by granting select journalists access to some of the company’s internal correspondence nicknamed “The Twitter Files,” that executives from the previous leadership team allegedly repressed right-wing viewpoints.
Musk abolished the Trust and Safety Council last week, a crucial advisory body comprised of dozens of non-governmental civil, human rights, and other organisations. In 2016, the corporation established the council to deal with issues such as bullying, suicide, self-harm, and exploitation of children.
How will these changes impact the content of your feed on a daily basis? First and foremost, Musk’s actions demonstrate that he views boosting Twitter’s image within the US political right as a top priority. To be clear, he is not guaranteeing an end to censorship, but rather a change in the relative prominence of different viewpoints.
What are the Twitter files?
After purchasing Twitter in late October for $44 billion (approximately Rs. 3,37,465 crore), Musk has been working with a select number of writers, such as former Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi and opinion columnist Bari Weiss. They started releasing information regarding past actions Twitter has taken against accounts that may have broken its content standards earlier this month in the form of a series of tweets.
The writers have extensive and growing access to Twitter’s archives,” Weiss said on December 8.
Weiss published the fifth and final episode on Monday, detailing the events leading up to Twitter’s permanent suspension of then-President Donald Trump’s account on January 8, 2021 “because to the potential of additional instigation of violence” after the fatal US Capitol rebellion two days earlier. Internal emails reveal that at least one employee questioned whether or not one of Trump’s tweets incited violence and also show how officials responded to a lobbying effort by some workers who wanted more severe punishment for the president.
The Musk Twitter Files give some insight into the internal deliberations that led to the suspension or removal of conservative and libertarian accounts for violating Twitter’s policies against hate speech and the dissemination of false information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the stories mostly rely on anecdotes regarding a few prominent accounts, and the tweets don’t disclose figures about the magnitude of suspensions or whose viewpoints were more likely to be affected. Reporters appear to have unrestricted access to a company-wide Slack message board, but have depended on Twitter personnel to hand-deliver other papers.
The Twitter files mention shadowbanning. What’s that?
In 2018, after then-CEO Jack Dorsey said Twitter would focus on the “health” of conversations, the company outlined a new approach to reduce the impact of disruptive users, or trolls, by reading “behavioural signals” that indicate when users are more interested in blowing up conversations than contributing.
Twitter uses “visibility filtering” to minimise the reach of accounts that breach its rules but aren’t suspended. It denied “shadowbanning” conservatives.
Screenshots from the Twitter Files demonstrate how this filtering works. Musk has called for more transparency.
Twitter is working on a software upgrade that will disclose your genuine account status, so you know whether you’ve been shadowbanned, why, and how to appeal.
Who’s monitoring posts on Twitter now?
After buying Twitter, Musk fired nearly half of the personnel and an unknown number of content-moderation contractors. Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, resigned.
So many staff leaving sparked doubts about how the platform might police policies against damaging disinformation, hate speech, and threats of violence in the U.S. and beyond. According to Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at Tufts University’s Fletcher School, the cuts will likely force Twitter to focus content moderation efforts on regions with stronger regulations governing social media platforms, like Europe, where tech companies could face big fines under the new Digital Services Act if they don’t combat misinformation and hate speech.
Chakravorti: “The staff was devastated.” Few content moderators will focus on Europe because it’s the noisiest.
Has there been an impact?
Researchers and advocacy organisations have noted a spike in tweets that include racist epithets or assaults on Jews, LGBT people, and transgender persons after Musk purchased Twitter.
Twitter users who wrote these tweets often claimed they were experimenting with the platform’s new features.
Despite experts disputing his claim, Musk maintains that hate speech has seen less interaction on Twitter since he bought the firm.
Trump, the satire site The Babylon Bee, the comedian Kathy Griffin, the Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, and Ye, before he kick off again, are just some of the names on the list of previously ban users whose accounts reinstate, and they serve as the most visible sign of change at Twitter. Twitter has brought back the accounts of neo-Nazis and white supremacists like Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin, as well as QAnon supporters whom the old guard had been mass-deleting to prevent the propagation of hatred and disinformation.