Twitter Trust and Safety Advisers Say They’re Being Ignored

At the beginning of 2016, Twitter announced some good news: the formation of the Trust and Safety Council, made up of more than 40 outside groups and experts tapped for advice “to ensure that people feel safe expressing themselves on Twitter.” By that point, the company had already spent years knee-deep in accusations that its social network was rife with abuse and harassment. Something had to change.

For the first two years of its existence, the council’s relationship with Twitter was relatively fruitful. Representatives met CEO Jack Dorsey at annual summits, and held regular calls with other company executives to discuss new policies well in advance of their rollouts. But this year, some council members say, Twitter has been far less communicative, leaving them to wonder whether its leaders still value their input and expertise.

Their concerns are outlined in a letter, signed “Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council Members” and sent to Twitter’s leadership on Monday. In the message, which was obtained Friday by WIRED, its authors describe going months without updates, and in some regions being unable to reach their contacts at the company. “There have been no advance heads-up of Twitter’s policy or product changes to the council, leaving many of us to have no prior warning or let alone knowledge when answering press and media inquiries,” reads the letter. “This is embarrassing.” It ends by requesting a call with Dorsey to discuss the council’s future.

The letter was sent from the email account of Alex Holmes, deputy CEO at the Diana Award, a UK-based organization that runs anti-bullying and online safety programs, and a founding council member. Holmes, who did not provide WIRED with the letter, did agree to speak on the record. “A core group of us decided this was the right thing to do,” he said. “We want to continue to work with the platform on this as a group. We expect to hear from them exactly about that.”

Twitter had yet to reply to the message when WIRED reached out on Thursday, but Holmes noted that the company has now responded.

Holmes said the letter does not necessarily represent the views of every member of the Trust and Safety Council. Members who were contacted by WIRED had a range of responses to Monday’s message. One person said they didn’t know much about the letter. Another said it could have gone even further: “The Trust and Safety Council has eroded to practically nothing,” the member said, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about Twitter.

When the company created the council in February 2016, Twitter was in crisis. Nearly all of its senior leaders had departed. Dorsey had retaken the reins the previous year, while the company’s stock price tanked and it struggled to grow its user base. The users Twitter did manage to keep had plenty of complaints, from minor product tweaks to the presence of terrorists on the social network.

Then there was the abuse, which was rampant and disproportionately targeted toward women and minorities. High-profile Twitter users like Lindy West and Zelda Williams abandoned the platform after being bombarded by threats and harassment. So when the company announced it was forming a group of independent experts to consult on the issue, the move was hailed by many as a sign of progress.

Since then, Twitter has turned to the Trust and Safety Council for feedback while implementing new rules around problems like hate speech and unwanted sexual advances. But the company also has continued to come under fire for failing to protect users, and not being transparent or consistent enough in its moderation practices.

Posted by Web Monkey