Elon Musk Twitter disbanded its Trust and Safety Council, an advisory group of about 100 independent civic, human rights and other organizations that the company created in 2016 to combat hate speech, child exploitation, suicide, self-harm and other issues on the platform.
The board was scheduled to meet with Twitter officials Monday night. But Twitter notified the group via email that it was disbanding shortly before the meeting, according to multiple participants.
The board members who released images of the email from Twitter to The Associated Press spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. The email said Twitter was “rethinking how best to bring in outside information” and that the board was “not the best structure for this.”
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“Our work to make Twitter a safe, informative place will move faster and more aggressively than ever before, and we continue to welcome your ideas going forward on how to achieve this goal,” said the email, which was signed “Twitter”.
The volunteer group provided expertise and guidance on how Twitter could better address hate speech, harassment and other harm, but did not have decision-making authority or review specific content disputes. Shortly after buying Twitter for $44 billion in late October, Musk said he would form a new “content moderation board” to help make important decisions, but later changed his mind.
“Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council was a group of volunteers who spent years consulting with Twitter employees to provide advice on a wide range of online harm and safety,” board member Alex Holmes tweeted. “In no way was it a governing body or a decision-making body.”
San Francisco-based Twitter confirmed Thursday’s meeting with the board in an email, promising “an open conversation and Q&A” with Twitter staff, including new head of trust and safety Ella Irwin.
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It came on the same day that the three board members announced their resignations in a public statement posted on Twitter, saying that “contrary to Elon Musk’s claims, the security and well-being of Twitter users is deteriorating.”
Those former board members soon became the target of online attacks after Musk stepped up criticism of them and past Twitter management for allegedly not doing enough to stop child sexual exploitation on the platform.
“It is a crime that for years they refused to take measures to combat the exploitation of children!” Musk wrote on Twitter.
The growing number of attacks on the council has alarmed some of the remaining members, who sent an email on Twitter earlier on Monday demanding an end to misrepresentations about the council’s role.
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These false accusations by Twitter leaders “put current and former Board members at risk,” the email said.
In fact, the Trust and Security Council had as one of its advisory groups a group that focused on the exploitation of children. Including the National Center for the Investigation of Missing Persons & Exploited Children, Rati Foundation and YAKIN, or Youth Adult Survivors & Kin in want.
Former Twitter employee Patricia Cortes, whose job it was to form the board in 2016, said Monday that its dissolution “means there are no more checks and balances.” Cortes said the company sought to bring a global perspective to the board, with experts from around the world who could share concerns about how new Twitter policies or products might affect their communities.
She contrasted this with Musk’s current practice of surveying his Twitter followers before making policy changes affecting content moderation. “He doesn’t really care that much what the experts think,” she said.
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