Twitter owner Elon Musk has laughed off a BBC investigation which claims the social media site is struggling to protect users from online abuse and child sexual exploitation.
A BBC Panorama report, due to air tonight (Monday), cites figures from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue think tank which show that tens of thousands of new accounts have popped up and immediately followed known abusive and misogynistic profiles since Musk took over.
The figures were 69% higher than before he bought the firm, suggesting a “permissive environment”, the report claimed. The BBC cites a former head of content design at Twitter, Lisa Jennings Young, who says that before the takeover the platform was trying to crack down on trolling. “It was not at all perfect. But we were trying, and we were making things better all the time,” she claims.
Meanwhile, a former Twitter worker who tackled state-sponsored disinformation, Ray Serrato, says that the team he used to work for had been “decimated” and only has minimised capacity today. He adds: “Twitter might have been the refuge where journalists would go out and have their voice be heard and be critical of the government. But I’m not sure that’s going to be the case anymore.
“There are a number of key experts that are no longer in that team that would have covered special regions, or threat actors, from Russia to China.”
Another anonymous source told the BBC that the Twitter cutbacks meant that a team of 20 people who used to work on tackling child sexual exploitation had been slashed to just six or seven.
In response, Musk apologised “for turning Twitter from nurturing paradise into place that has … trolls”.
He also responded to a user who said that before his takeover of the platform no one had ever said anything mean to them. “It was a beautiful utopia. Now I fear for my life daily,” the user said. Musk replied: “Literally roflmao” (rolling on the floor laughing my ass off).
One thing Musk will not be laughing off, however, is the state of the platform’s finances. In January, figures showed advertising spend on the site crashed by 71% in December, as the fall-out from the controversial $44bn (£38.1bn) takeover continues.
The data, from ad research firm Standard Media Index (SMI), followed reports that over 500 advertisers have now paused their spending on Twitter since the takeover, leading to a 40% decrease in revenue compared to last year.
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