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Twitter disbands Trust and Safety Council, former official flees home

Elon Musk’s Twitter abruptly disbanded its Trust and Safety council less than an hour before its members were to meet with company executives via video conferencing service Zoom.

The move came on Monday night, and it is the latest sign that the new boss is unimpressed with concerns that the social network is becoming less safe and civil. The Washington Post was the first to report the dissolution of the council.

Its members received an email with the subject line, “Thank You,” that informed them the council was no longer “the best structure” to bring “external insights into our product and policy development work.” The email was simply signed “Twitter.”

People were just about to log into a Zoom meeting with Twitter executives, but apparently, Musk and his team decided not to discuss recent developments at the company with dozens of civil rights leaders, academics, and other volunteer council members.

The council advocated for the safety and advised Twitter as it developed products, programs, and rules, according to a web archive for the page. Yet now, even the Twitter page for the group has been deleted.

"Our work to make Twitter a safe, informative place will be moving faster and more aggressively than ever before and we will continue to welcome your ideas going forward about how to achieve this goal," the email from Twitter, seen by Reuters, said.

It seems that Musk is eager to decide himself if content moderation at Twitter or advice from outside experts is needed. It’s rather ironic to remember that the billionaire himself had been expressing the need for such a body in the past.

Twitter first formed the Trust and Safety Council in 2016, as social media was under ever greater scrutiny for its role in amplifying hate, terrorism, child exploitation, and other problematic content online. The company’s executives would regularly brief the council on new products in development and policies.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-profit that promotes press freedom around the world, decried the dissolution of the council.

“Safety online can mean survival offline," the group’s president, Jodie Ginsburg, said in a statement. “Today’s decision to dissolve the Trust and Safety Council is cause for grave concern, particularly as it is coupled with increasingly hostile statements by Twitter owner Elon Musk about journalists and the media.”

Not only that – Musk’s online offensive against Yoel Roth, the company’s former Head of Trust and Safety, who had earlier resigned with more than a thousand other Twitter employees, has forced him to flee home amidst a wave of threats and harassment.

Musk’s tweets wrongfully attacked Roth’s academic writing about sexual activity and children.

According to critics, Roth’s dissertation actually suggested that services like the gay dating app Grindr should adopt safety strategies to accommodate teenagers using their platforms, rather than drive them out entirely. Soon enough, though, the online mob moved in with a flood of threats, directed at Roth, who is gay.

About half of the social media site's workforce – around 3,700 employees – have also been laid off since Musk took charge of the company and introduced budgetary cuts across the board.

At the end of November, Twitter quietly ditched the COVID-19 misinformation policy, and earlier, Lea Kissner, Chief Information Security Officer, announced she was leaving the company.

Musk, who is a self-described free-speech absolutist, has more than once expressed a desire to see the company have fewer limits on published content.

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