Thursday, April 28, 2022

Inside Twitter, Fears Musk Will Return Platform to Its Early Troubles

Yep, there's a tremendous level of fear back at HQ. It's freaky. 

I mean, all this time our Twitter overlords were making the site a "safe space" for their cuckolds and non-binary gender non-conforming psychiatric outpatients (especially their confused, dsyphoric young women with social contagion). And now with Boss Elon recalibrating the shots, it's the end of the world as they know it.

Nah I say ... just wait till November, for the congressional midterm earthquake and concomitant tsunami that washes Pelosi and the Democrats out to sea. It'll be great --- all those 2016 crying-scream-memes were getting a bit old anyway.

At the New York Times, "Content moderators warn that Elon Musk doesn’t appear to understand the issues that he and the company will face if he drops its guardrails around speech":

Elon Musk had a plan to buy Twitter and undo its content moderation policies. On Tuesday, just a day after reaching his $44 billion deal to buy the company, Mr. Musk was already at work on his agenda. He tweeted that past moderation decisions by a top Twitter lawyer were “obviously incredibly inappropriate.” Later, he shared a meme mocking the lawyer, sparking a torrent of attacks from other Twitter users.

Mr. Musk’s personal critique was a rough reminder of what faces employees who create and enforce Twitter’s complex content moderation policies. His vision for the company would take it right back to where it started, employees said, and force Twitter to relive the last decade.

Twitter executives who created the rules said they had once held views about online speech that were similar to Mr. Musk’s. They believed Twitter’s policies should be limited, mimicking local laws. But more than a decade of grappling with violence, harassment and election tampering changed their minds. Now, many executives at Twitter and other social media companies view their content moderation policies as essential safeguards to protect speech.

The question is whether Mr. Musk, too, will change his mind when confronted with the darkest corners of Twitter.

“You have said that you want more ‘free speech’ and less moderation on Twitter. What will this mean in practice?” Twitter employees wrote in an internal list of questions they hoped to ask Mr. Musk, which was seen by The New York Times.

Another question asked: “Some people interpret your arguments in defense of free speech as a desire to open the door back up for harassment. Is that true? And if not, do you have ideas for how to both increase free speech and keep the door closed on harassment?”

Mr. Musk has been unmoved by warnings that his plans are misguided. “The extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech says it all,” he tweeted on Tuesday.

He went on to criticize the work of Vijaya Gadde and Jim Baker, two of Twitter’s top lawyers. Ms. Gadde has led Twitter’s policy teams for more than a decade, often handling complicated moderation decisions, including the decision to cut off Donald J. Trump near the end of his term as president. A former general counsel for the F.B.I., Mr. Baker joined Twitter in 2020.

Twitter’s chief executive, Parag Agrawal, did not directly respond to the criticism, but in a tweet he wrote, “Proud of our people who continue to do the work with focus and urgency despite the noise.”

Employees of Twitter and other social media companies said that Mr. Musk seemed to understand little about Twitter’s approach to content moderation and the problems that had led to its rules — or that he just didn’t care. Some of the suggestions he has made, like labeling automated accounts, were in place before Mr. Musk launched his bid.

“He’s basically buying the position of being a rule-maker and a speech arbiter,” said David Kaye, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, who worked with the United Nations on speech issues. “That has been really fraught for everybody who’s been in that position.”

In its early years as a small start-up, Twitter was governed by one philosophy: The tweets must flow. That meant Twitter did little to moderate the conversations on its platform.

Twitter’s founders took their cues from Blogger, the publishing platform, owned by Google, that several of them had helped build. They believed that any reprehensible content would be countered or drowned out by other users, said three employees who worked at Twitter during that time.

“There’s a certain amount of idealistic zeal that you have: ‘If people just embrace it as a platform of self-expression, amazing things will happen,’” said Jason Goldman, who was on Twitter’s founding team and served on its board of directors. “That mission is valuable, but it blinds you to think certain bad things that happen are bugs rather than equally weighted uses of the platform.”

The company typically removed content only if it contained spam, or violated American laws forbidding child exploitation and other criminal acts.

In 2008, Twitter hired Del Harvey, its 25th employee and the first person it assigned the challenge of moderating content full time. The Arab Spring protests started in 2010, and Twitter became a megaphone for activists, reinforcing many employees’ belief that good speech would win out online. But Twitter’s power as a tool for harassment became clear in 2014 when it became the epicenter of Gamergate, a mass harassment campaign that flooded women in the video game industry with death and rape threats.

“If there are no rules against abuse and harassment, some people are at risk of being bullied into silence, and then you don’t get the benefit of their voice, their perspective, their free expression,” said Colin Crowell, Twitter’s former head of global public policy, who left the company in 2019.

In response, Twitter began expanding its policies...

More at that top link, and, on "Gamergate," see the Other McCain, "GamerGate And Why It Matters To Conservatives."