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Mass layoffs raise concerns about Twitter’s data integrity and security: experts

Elon Musk is looking to shake up Twitter after his blockbuster $44 billion takeover.


Twitter owner Elon Musk has vowed the platform won’t become a “hellscape”, but experts fear a staff exodus following mass layoffs has devastated its ability to fight the crisis. misinformation, identity theft and data theft.

Twitter has become what activists have described as a cesspool of lies and hate speech after recent layoffs cut the company’s 7,500 employees in half and fake accounts proliferated following the botched rollout of a paid verification system.

Throwing the influential platform further into disarray – and raising doubts about its very existence – reports indicate that hundreds of employees chose to leave the company on Thursday in defiance of an ultimatum from Musk.

“The large number of dismissals and resignations raises serious questions about content moderation and the security of user data,” Cheyenne Hunt-Majer, from the Public Citizen association, told AFP.

“It is imperative that (US regulators) act urgently as users could see their sensitive data exploited or even stolen given the lack of sufficient personnel to adequately protect it.”

The #RIPTwitter hashtag gained popularity on the site after resignations poured in from employees who chose “no” to Musk’s request to be “extremely hardcore” or leave the company.

Twitter has plunged into turmoil as Musk, a self-proclaimed free speech absolutist, seeks to shake up the money-losing company after its blockbuster $44 billion takeover late last month.

– ‘Debacle’ –

The site’s content moderation teams — largely outsourced contractors who fight misinformation — have been cut and a number of engineers fired after openly criticizing Musk on Twitter or an internal messaging forum, according to reports. reports and tweets.

Suspicious brands suspended or slowed ad spending – Twitter’s biggest source of revenue – after a spike in racist and anti-Semitic trolling on the platform.

According to a survey by non-profit monitoring group NewsGuard, “superspreaders of disinformation” – or untrustworthy accounts peddling lies – saw their engagement increase by 57% in the week after the Twitter acquisition. by Musk.

“Elon Musk quickly decimated Twitter’s ability to maintain the integrity, health and security of the platform,” said Jessica Gonzalez, co-chief executive of the nonpartisan group Free Press.

“If there’s one lesson all social media platforms need to learn from this debacle, it’s that without protecting users from hate and lies, you have no business.”

In response to the criticism, Musk on Friday pointed to a new direction for content moderation on the site.

While not entirely removed from the site, Musk said “negative/hateful tweets” will be “maximum deboosted (and) demonetized, so no ads or other revenue for Twitter.”

“You won’t find the tweet unless you search for it specifically, which is no different from the rest of the internet,” he added.

But his plan fell on skeptical ears.

– ‘Significant blow’ –

“We could definitely see a spike in misinformation, hate speech and other objectionable content because of Musk’s latest actions,” Zeve Sanderson, executive director of the Center for Social Media and Politics at the AFP, told AFP. New York University.

“Content moderation is a lot harder to do without people around to actually do the content moderation.”

In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, a regulatory agency, a group of Democratic senators accused Musk of introducing “alarming” new features that compromised security despite warnings that they would be “abused for fraud, scams and dangerous identity theft”.

“Users are already facing the severe repercussions of this growth-at-all-costs strategy,” they wrote in the letter published Thursday, noting the recent spike in fake accounts impersonating businesses, politicians and celebrities.

Among the victims was drugmaker Eli Lilly, whose share price plummeted – wiping billions of market capitalization – after a parody account stamped with a verification tag bought for $8 tweeted that the insulin was freely available.

Twitter last week disabled sign-ups for the controversial feature known as Twitter Blue, with reports that it had been temporarily disabled to help address impersonation issues – but not before several brands are affected.

Given the apparent vulnerabilities, digital experts have warned activists, especially in autocratic countries, of the increased risk of identity theft or their private messages falling into the hands of hackers.

“Around the world, Twitter is being used to organize against oppression,” Hunt-Majer said.

“If Musk’s mismanagement kills him, it would be a massive blow to freedom of information and, frankly, human rights in general globally.”

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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