According to a scathing new report from Bloomberg, Trust and Safety over at Elon Musk-owned Twitter is, well, pretty untrustworthy.
Internal company messages reviewed by Bloomberg reportedly show that in the wake of longtime Twitter Trust and Safety head Yoel Roth's resignation, Musk's new position appointee, Ellen Irwin, has spent her first few months on the job — which she arguably shouldn't really have in the first place — bending and breaking established safety guidelines as needed to help her boss pettily punish his enemies.
Not exactly trust-instilling, nor indicative of a particularly bright future ahead for the app.
"Nearly all the people who know how to build safety systems at Twitter have left the company," Laura Edelson, a computer scientist at New York University who studies online political communication, told Bloomberg, "and those who are still there appear to be unwilling or unable to tell their boss that the things he is asking them to do are dangerous or violate Twitter's legal commitments."
According to the internal docs, Irwin had a hand in two high-profile — and widely decried as unjustified — user bans, the first being that of Jack Sweeney, the teen behind @ElonJet.
Upon taking over the platform, Musk used the flight-tracking account as proof of his commitment to free speech absolutism. As such, a lot of eyebrows were raised when, just weeks later, both @ElonJet and Sweeney's personal account were missing from the platform. And that action, per the Bloomberg report, was done manually, accompanied by a note reading: "Suspension: direct request from Elon Musk." (Bloomberg also notes that before he was kicked offline, Sweeney himself had posted a screenshot "showing Irwin had sent a Slack message directing employees to restrict visibility" to @ElonJet.)
Bloomberg also pointed to the company's sudden ban of several prominent Musk-critical journalists, a move that was met with a fair share of public scrutiny. They too were silenced manually, an order that was executed by "direction of Ella," according to a different screenshot.
The Bloomberg report was expansive, alleging as well that Musk and Irwin have disbanded a Twitter committee dubbed the Global Escalations Team, a group that formerly had the power to overrule execs "based on existing policy" — basically, a measure built to encourage corporate checks and balances. (Irwin told Bloomberg that allegation is "not accurate at all.")
Meanwhile, Twitter's domestic and international teams, including content moderation and safety teams that work on topics as sensitive as child sexual exploitation, are still in shambles.
Look, managing trust and safety for any social media platform, Twitter or otherwise, is a very difficult thing to do, perhaps now more than ever. These sites sit rather perilously at the core of both broader societal functioning, at the same time mediating our interpersonal and even interior lives. Considering the real weight that social media has on our personal and public worlds — not to mention the reality that a lawless internet is always bound to be a hell gutter of leashless bad actors — strict security guidelines are necessary, while simultaneously difficult to define and enforce due to varied international free speech laws.
In other words, when it comes to social media trust and safety, nearly everything is gray area. Decisions are complex, and can't and shouldn't be made on whims — let alone on whims that serve only to settle a new and chaotic owner's personal feuds. It's not only ridiculous, but potentially quite damaging, to the site as well as its users.
"Twitter's policies and practices in the trust and safety space were built around defending the rights of users around the world, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized communities," an unnamed former Twitter exec told Bloomberg. "Since the acquisition, the company's only actions have been to silence critics of Elon, to expose journalists and others to harm, and to violate basic ethical standards and privacy laws."
READ MORE: Twitter's Trust and Safety Head Ditches Protocol for Musk Whims [Bloomberg]