Twitter's Safety Consultants Say the Platform's Ghosting Them

Photo: Jeff Chiu (AP)

Let me go ahead and break out that “pretends to be shocked” gif.

Apparently, Twitter’s users aren’t the only ones disappointed in the platform. Members of the company’s Trust and Safety Council say Twitter has been failing to keep them in the loop for months regarding policy changes, according to a Wired report.

On Friday, Wired published a letter sent to Twitter’s staff earlier this week signed “Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council Members” that describes the lack of communication between the two as “embarrassing” and calls for talks with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

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“There have been no advance heads-up of Twitter’s policy or product changes to the council, leaving many of us to have no prior warning or let alone knowledge when answering press and media inquiries,” the letter (which you can read in full here) states. In the past few months, Twitter revised its policies with clearer language, shrinking its rules from 2,500 words to fewer than 600, and later updated how the platform defines and moderates “hateful conduct,” a measure that purportedly failed to impress civil rights organizations.

Members of the Trust and Safety Council are not employees of Twitter, but rather a group of safety advocates, community groups, and researchers the company collaborates with to help curb problems like hate speech and harassment that have plagued its platform years. Originally formed in 2016, the council hosts roughly 40 organizations and more than a dozen experts from around the world according to a blog post announcing its formation.

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To Twitter’s credit, the letter begins by commending its collaboration with the council over the past two years. Councilmembers had particularly high praise for the company’s annual Trust and Safety Council summit, calling last year’s “the best example of a way of working with safety partners within the entire industry.”

However, the letter goes on to describe a breakdown in communication not long after these events. The last groupwide update went out in December, the letter states, and the lack of news regarding any improvements or measures discussed at these summits has been frustrating. And while some councilmembers have purportedly received updates from corporate representatives, others have “heard absolutely nothing” from their regional Twitter contacts in 2019 so far, according to the letter.

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So I suppose there is some solace in the fact that Twitter isn’t just ignoring some of its users’ calls to crack down on abuse; from the looks of this letter, the hellsite may even be ignoring the very people it brought on board to do just that. And quite honestly, that’d explain a lot.

Updated: 8/24/2019, 9:31 a.m.: Twitter’s director for public policy strategy, Nick Pickles, provided the following statement concerning Wired’s report:

“We’ve been discussing ways we can improve how we work with partners, experts and advocates, including having conversations with our Trust and Safety Council members. From those conversations, we’ve heard that one small, centralized group isn’t reflective of Twitter’s role in the world, so we’re working on ways to hear more regularly from a more diverse range of voices. We remain committed to working alongside partners to keep people safe on Twitter.” 

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[Wired]

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About the author

Alyse Stanley

Nights and weekend reporter, Gizmodo.