Twitter disbands its Trust and Safety Council of external advisors
Twitter has dissolved its Trust and Safety Council via email and less than an hour before its members’ Zoom meeting with the company’s executives, according to The Washington Post and NPR. The council was reportedly supposed to discuss recent developments and changes on the website under Elon Musk, but the email said that the members’ help is no longer needed. Its members were apparently informed that Twitter is “reevaluating how best to bring external insights” and that the council is no longer “the best structure to do this.”
The company disbanded the group just a few days after three members resigned from their voluntary positions. In their letter, they said the well-being of Twitter’s users is on the decline despite Musk’s claims and that the executive should not be allowed to define digital safety. In a response to the news of their departure, Musk tweeted: “It is a crime that they refused to take action on child exploitation for years!” After that tweet, NPR said some remaining members sent a letter to Twitter demanding the company to stop misrepresenting the council’s role, as attacks against former and current advisors continued to grow worse.
The Trust and Safety Council members aren’t employees handling moderation on the website, and they have no power to make decisions or to review banned accounts and specific tweets. They’re a group of external advisors from expert and anti-abuse organizations, including the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, YAKIN (Youth Adult Survivors & Kin in Need), the Samaritans and GLAAD, volunteering their time to help Twitter figure out how to fight hate and harassment. When Twitter formed the council in 2016, it said the group’s purpose is to make the website a less toxic place so that “anyone, anywhere can express themselves safely and confidently.”
Another member, the Committee to Protect Journalists, has confirmed to Engadget that it received a letter from Twitter announcing the council’s dissolution. Twitter apparently told the committee that it plans to continue engaging with partner organizations through “bilateral or small group meetings” and “regional contacts.” CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg also said: “Mechanisms such as the Trust and Safety Council help platforms like Twitter to understand how to address harm and counter behavior that targets journalists. Safety online can mean survival offline. Today’s decision to dissolve the Trust and Safety Council is cause for grave concern, particularly as it is coupled with increasingly hostile statements by Twitter owner Elon Musk about journalists and the media.”
More members were on the verge of resigning before the group was dissolved, Larry Magid, chief executive of Silicon Valley nonprofit ConnectSafely, told The Post. He said: “By disbanding [the council], we got fired instead of quit. Elon doesn’t want criticism, and he really doesn’t want the kind of advice he would very likely get from a safety advisory council, which would likely tell him to rehire some of the staff he got rid of, and reinstate some of the rules he got rid of, and turn the company in another direction from where he is turning it.”
Musk said in October that he will form a “moderation council” made up of members with “widely diverse viewpoints” before he reinstates banned accounts. But in an interview in November, he admitted that he will still have the final say in making decisions. Twitter has yet to introduce a moderation council, but Musk has already reinstated previously banned accounts’, such as Donald Trump’s and Andrew Anglin’s, the neo-Nazi creator of The Daily Stormer.
Update 12/13/22 2:52AM ET: Add statement and information from the Committee to Protect Journalists.