Elon Musk-owned Twitter is relying heavily on automation to moderate content, doing away with certain manual reviews and favoring limitations on distribution rather than removing certain speech outright, according to a Reuters report.
Twitter is aggressively restricting abuse-prone hashtags and search results in areas such as child exploitation regardless of potential impacts on “benign uses” of those terms, Twitter Vice President of Trust and Safety Product Ella Irwin said, reported Reuters.
“The biggest thing that’s changed is the team is fully empowered to move fast and be as aggressive as possible,” Irwin said. This was the first interview a Twitter executive has given since Musk’s takeover of the tech major in late October.
The statement comes amid researchers reporting a surge in hate speech on the social media platform after Musk announced an amnesty for accounts suspended under the company’s previous leadership that had not violated the law or engaged in “egregious spam.”
The social media company has faced questions regarding its ability and willingness to moderate harmful and illegal content since Musk fired half of Twitter’s workforce and issued an order to work long hours that resulted in the loss of hundreds more employees.
Several advertisers, Twitter’s primary source of revenue, have also fled the platform over brand safety concerns.
Musk encouraged the team to worry less about how their actions would impact user growth or revenue, saying safety was the company’s key priority, said Irwin. “He emphasizes that every single day, multiple times a day,” she added.
Irwin said the approach to safety at least in part reflects an acceleration of changes that were already being planned since last year around Twitter’s dealing with hateful contact and other policy violations.
According to the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the number of tweets containing hateful content on Twitter rose sharply in the week before Musk tweeted on November 23 that impressions, or views, of hateful speech, were declining. This is one example of researchers pointing to the prevalence of such content, while Musk touts a reduction in visibility.
Tweets containing words that were anti-Black that week were three times the number seen in the month before the Musk acquisition, while tweets containing a gay slur rose 31%, the researchers said.
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Irwin said Musk was focused on using automation more, saying that the company had in the past erred on the side of using time- and labor-intensive human reviews of harmful content.
In an interview on Thursday, she said Twitter took down around 44,000 accounts involved in child safety violations, in collaboration with cybersecurity group Ghost Data.
Twitter is also limiting hashtags and search results frequently linked with abuse, such as those aimed at looking up “teen” pornography.