New Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino is certainly getting the full Elon Musk experience in her first weeks at the app, as the company works to meet evolving regional enforcement demands, while Musk himself continues to skirt controversy via his own tweets.
This week, both Yaccarino and Musk are meeting with EU Privacy Commissioner Thierry Breton, along with EU Commission assessors, to discuss how Twitter is placed in regards to meeting its commitments to the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA).
Twitter withdrew from the EU’s voluntary Code of Practice on online disinformation, last month, which is part of the DSA - though at the time, Musk noted that Twitter remained committed to the EU code, including its new requirements on policing disinformation, even though it had opted out of this voluntary element.
Musk’s long-held stance is that Twitter will obey the laws of each region, but will not go beyond the law for any reason. As such, the voluntary code could be viewed as going further than what’s necessary - though Musk has also met with EU leaders, and Breton himself, several times to reiterate his desire to work with them to ensure Twitter’s compliance as required.
It’ll be interesting to see how this week’s meeting and review pans out, and how Twitter’s scaled back workforce is meeting these requirements. If it’s not, you can expect EU officials to take further steps to sanction the app, which could potentially lead to fines, and even bans, if Twitter fails to act.
And that’s not the only place that Twitter could be facing operational challenges, with Australia’s eSafety Commissioner also calling on the company to provide an explanation of how it plans to tackle the rise of hate speech in the app, based on the increasing rate of reports to the Commissioner’s office.
As reported by The Guardian:
“Australia’s eSafety commissioner says Twitter has ‘dropped the ball’ on tackling online hate, and has issued a legal notice to the social media giant demanding an explanation about what it is doing about the scourge. The commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, said there have been more complaints about online hate on Twitter in the past year than any other platform, and complaints have spiked since Elon Musk’s takeover of the company in October.”
Twitter itself maintains that exposure to hate speech has declined significantly since Musk took over at the app, though the actual rate of such has been revised of late in Twitter’s own reporting.
Back in March, Twitter reported that hate speech impressions had been reduced by 50% as a result of changes led by Musk, but in an interview last week, Musk himself stated that hate speech visibility has declined by 30% since the acquisition.
Both are impressive results, but there’s also a significant variance in reporting here, with Twitter’s hate speech exposure numbers seemingly increasing by almost half over the past three months.
Could that be the result of Twitter allowing previously banned users back into the app via Musk’s ‘amnesty’ program, or maybe this is reflective of Twitter’s new ‘freedom of speech, not freedom of reach’ approach, which aims to reduce the broadcast range of offensive comments, as opposed to removing them outright?
It’s impossible to say without the actual reporting data, which is only available internally, but seemingly, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner believes that Twitter’s not doing enough, and has alluded to this happening as a result of Twitter’s staff cuts – though it is also worth noting that Musk also claimed this week that Twitter’s staffing numbers in this area actually haven’t been significantly reduced since he took over at the app.
In any event, Twitter faces penalties of nearly $700,000 a day for continuing breaches if it fails to address the Commission’s concerns.
So, Yaccarino has some pretty big issues to address, while also working to alleviate advertiser concerns around these same elements, which have prompted some key Twitter ad partners to pause their ad spend, though many are now coming back.
Just to keep things spicy, Musk has also added another element into the mix, by stating that the use of the terms ‘cis’ or ‘cisgender’ will now be considered slurs by Twitter’s team if they’re used in an abusive or harassing way.
Musk has further clarified that users will not get suspended for simply using these terms, ‘but their post will see much less reach, as it will not be recommended to others’ if they’re found to be using such in a negative context.
Much like Musk’s recent comments about the misuse of tweet replies for free advertising, this is not an official rule as yet, and the wording of such will be important in assessing exactly what this means in context. But it’s another stance that could prompt concerns among ad partners as to how Twitter is looking to enforce its rules on divisive and controversial issues – though the fundamental principle here, that gender terminology should not be used as a means for abuse, makes sense.
But it’s another consideration set to spark debate, and coverage based on Musk’s stances, which Yaccarino will now be tasked with managing as she looks to secure more ad spend.
Clearly, Musk is not going to hold back on his opinions, as he’s repeatedly stated he won’t, and that will remain a balancing block for Yaccarino in her mission to manage the company.
Which will remain challenging – but then again, the Twitter 2.0 team seems confident that they’ll be able to use video to build a platform that’ll eventually be so big that advertisers won’t be able to ignore it either way.
Maybe that’s the way forward, but regardless, Twitter will still need to meet its regional requirements, and ensure compliance with each jurisdiction on this front.
Oh, also, Elon’s challenged Mark Zuckerberg to a cage match to resolve their differences, which Zuckerberg has accepted via his Instagram profile.
Zuckerberg recently won several medals in his first jiu-jitsu tournament, so my money would be on Mr. Metaverse if this actually goes ahead.