Twitter’s new owner and CEO Elon Musk has locked employees out of the platform’s internal censorship tools ahead of the looming midterm elections.
Musk has reportedly cut the number of staff who can access Twitter’s “content moderation” tools from hundreds to around 15 people.
The move has limited access to internal tools used for content moderation and the enforcement of other policies to just a handful of Musk’s trusted associates and Tesla engineers.
Musk is seeking to neuter staff’s abilities to “alter or penalize accounts that break rules around misleading information, offensive posts and hate speech,” according to the report.
Employees will now no longer have the ability to banish highly credentialed doctors and researchers for posting divergent COVID-19 narratives.
All but the most “high-impact violations set for manual review” will remain on the platform, according to people familiar with the matter.
Twitter staff use dashboards, known as agent tools, to carry out actions like banning or suspending an account that is deemed to have breached policies, according to Bloomberg.
“Detection of policy breaches can either be flagged by other Twitter users or detected automatically, but taking action on them requires human input and access to the dashboard tools,” the report explains.
“Those tools have been suspended since last week, the people said.
“This restriction is part of a broader plan to freeze Twitter’s software code to keep employees from pushing changes to the app during the transition to new ownership.
“Typically this level of access is given to a group of people numbering in the hundreds, and that was initially reduced to about 15 people last week, according to two of the people, who asked not to be named discussing internal decisions.”
On Sunday, Twitter employees had limited access to the internal tools to police Brazil’s presidential election.
Meanwhile, the company is still using automated enforcement technology as well as third-party contractors.
The restricted ability to restrict free speech has given Twitter’s Trust and Safety Team the vapors.
Employees are now worried that the company will be short-handed during the run-up to the November 8 midterm election day.
According to Bloomberg:
Internally, employees say, Musk has raised questions about a number of the policies, and has zeroed in on a few specific rules that he wants the team to review.
The first is Twitter’s general misinformation policy, which penalizes posts that include falsehoods about topics like election outcomes and Covid-19.
Musk wants the policy to be more specific, according to people familiar with the matter.
Musk has also asked the team to review Twitter’s hateful conduct policy, according to the people, specifically a section that says users can be penalized for “targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.”
On Monday, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, tweeted that the company was addressing an increase in offensive posts.
Since Musk took over the company, Twitter has seen an increase in trolling bots that seek to flood the platform with offensive content.
“Since Saturday, we’ve been focused on addressing the surge in hateful conduct on Twitter,” Roth wrote.
“We’ve made measurable progress, removing more than 1500 accounts and reducing impressions on this content to nearly zero.
“We’re primarily dealing with a focused, short-term trolling campaign.”