Former employees of Twitter claim that the potential return of former US president Donald Trump, who was barred from the social media site in January 2021 for inciting the January 6 Capitol riot, might have a chilling impact on ad spending and push the content moderation team to its breaking point.
Elon Musk, who paid $44 billion for Twitter in late October, polled its followers on whether or not to restore Trump’s account on November 18. More than 15 million people had cast ballots by the time the polls closed on November 19. According to Musk, one hundred thirty-four million of Twitter’s quarter billion users saw the poll.
From 52% to 48%, voters agreed that Trump should be added to the platform. Musk tweeted, “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” (the voice of the people is the voice of god), indicating that he was okay with Trump getting back on the platform. (Surprisingly, Google search trends didn’t show a rise in interest for the phrase, suggesting that most people are familiar with that bit of Latin.)
Trump previously stated that he doesn’t see the need to use Twitter again, saying at a conference on November 19 that “I don’t see any necessity for it.” Twitter “has a lot of problems” and “may not make it,” he continued. The former president, who has a history of saying one thing and doing another, may find it difficult to resist the urge to return to the platform that helped him win the presidency in 2016, mainly because he plans to seek it again for the office in 2024.
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Following Musk’s announcement that he would be permitted to return, Trump’s Twitter account, @ReadlDonaldTrump, gained back followers and currently has 83 million followers, surpassing the number he had before his January 2021 ban.
Trump’s account was reinstated despite Musk’s pledges that he was creating a “content moderation council with broadly different opinions,” which he made shortly after taking control of the social media giant. Musk promised followers, “No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes” in that tweet from October 28.
New Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.
Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter.
You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically seek it out, which is no different from rest of Internet.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 18, 2022
According to a former Twitter employee who worked there until last week, the message may come back to haunt Musk and lead to the platform’s largest advertisers suspending—or continuing to suspend—their marketing efforts. Earlier, inquiries regarding Musk’s position on Trump’s comeback flooded him and his team. Advertisers’ worries were only allayed when Twitter sales employees could cite Musk’s October 28 statement that no choices would be taken without the input of an independent council.
Especially soon after the acquisition, “I saw the question asked,” he claims. But Elon’s assurance that he would delay making judgments like that until after calling a content moderation committee proved helpful. Of course, we are aware of the outcome today. The re-platforming of Trump and the decision to reverse course on such an important policy, according to Christopher Bouzy of Bot Sentinel, a service that monitors fraudulent activity on Twitter, will have a detrimental impact on society.
He claims that Trump was removed from Twitter because he was using the service to disseminate false information about the upcoming election, which caused the Capitol attack that was witnessed on January 6. “Allowing him back on Twitter is foolish and irresponsible because Trump is still disseminating false information about the election.”
The Trump issue is made more complicated by Twitter’s ability to drastically reduce the amount of its full-time workforce responsible for creating election integrity and political speech standards and its outsourced or contracted-out content moderation team. Even before losing a significant portion of its personnel, Twitter had trouble keeping up with its desire to spew lies.
The restoration of Trump, according to Melissa Ingle, a former senior data scientist who worked as a contractor for Twitter until earlier this month and focused exclusively on civic integrity, undoes the platform’s good work. She calls Elon Musk’s decision to allow Trump back on the forum “very disturbing.” “We all put much effort into maintaining the platform secure for users.”
Ingle worries that the former president would operate as a “lightning rod,” luring other people who want to stir discord and promote misinformation. According to her, the most extreme content and conspiracy theories were drawn to and magnified by Donald Trump. “He was prohibited because he attempted to sabotage our nation’s free and fair elections by inciting an uprising. His reappearance illustrates the platform’s rising toxicity and abuse since Musk’s acquisition, which will significantly affect our democracy.
Twitter no longer has a communications team as a result of layoffs. In response to Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, an anti-hate campaign organisation, who said the action “shows he is not remotely serious about safeguarding the platform from hate, harassment, and misinformation,” Elon Musk made his most significant public statement about the reasons behind the decisions to restore Trump’s account.