Elon Musk’s Twitter disbanded its Trust and Safety Council, an advisory group of about 100 independent civic, human rights and other organizations that the company formed in 2016 to address hate speech, child exploitation, violence on the platform. Suicide, self-harm and other problems.
The committee was scheduled to meet with Twitter representatives on Monday night. But Twitter emailed the group that it was disbanding shortly before the meeting, according to multiple members.
Council members, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, provided the Associated Press with images of the emails on Twitter. The email said Twitter was “re-evaluating how best to bring in outside insights” and that the committee “is not the best structure for doing so.”
“Our commitment to making Twitter a safe, informative place will move faster and more aggressively than ever before, and we continue to welcome your ideas on how we can make this happen,” the signed letter reads “Twitter,” said the email.
The group of volunteers provided expertise and guidance on how Twitter could better combat hate, harassment and other harm, but did not have any decision-making authority or review specific content controversies. Shortly after buying Twitter for $44 billion in late October, Musk said he would form a new “content review board” to help make major decisions, but later changed his mind.
“Twitter’s Trust & Safety Council is a group of volunteers who have given up their time over the years to consult with Twitter staff, advising on a wide range of online hazards and safety issues,” tweeted Council member Alex Holmes Wen said. “It was never a governing body or a decision maker.”
San Francisco-based Twitter confirmed the meeting with the committee in an email Thursday, promising an “open conversation and question-and-answer” with Twitter employees, including new trust and safety chief Ella Irwin.
On the same day, three council members announced their resignations in a public statement posted on Twitter stating that “contrary to Elon Musk’s claims, the safety and well-being of Twitter users is declining.”
The former committee members were quickly targeted by cyberattacks after Musk stepped up criticism of them and Twitter’s past leadership for allegedly not doing enough to stop child sexual exploitation on the platform.
“It’s a crime for them to refuse to take action on child exploitation for years!” Musk tweeted.
The growing attacks on the committee have raised concerns among some remaining members, who sent an email to Twitter early Monday asking the company to stop misrepresenting the committee’s role.
The false allegations by Twitter leaders “endanger current and former board members,” the email said.
In fact, one of the Trust and Safety Committee’s advisory groups is focused on child exploitation. This includes the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Rati Foundation and YAKIN, Young Adult Survivors and Relatives in Need.
Patricia Cartes, a former Twitter employee who was tasked with forming the committee in 2016, said Monday that the dissolution “means there are no more checks and balances.” Cartes said the company seeks to bring a global perspective to the council, where experts from around the world can convey concerns about how new Twitter policies or products might affect their communities.
She contrasted this with Musk’s current practice of polling his Twitter followers before making policy changes that affect how content is moderated.
“He didn’t care much about what the experts thought,” she said.