(AP) – Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, continues to slam the teams battling misinformation on the social media platform after outsourced moderators learned over the weekend that they were unemployed.
Twitter and other major social media companies have relied heavily on contractors to track hate and enforce rules against harmful content.
But many of these content watchdogs have now sprung, first as Twitter laid off much of its full-time employees via email on Nov. 4, and now as it looks to slash a untold number of contract jobs.
Melissa Ingle, who worked as a contractor at Twitter for more than a year, was one of several contractors who said they were fired Saturday. She said she was concerned that abuse on Twitter would increase as employees left the company.
“I love the platform and really enjoyed working at the company and trying to make it better. And I’m really afraid of what’s going to slip through the cracks,” she said on Sunday.
Ingle, a data scientist, said she works in the data and surveillance arm of Twitter’s civil integrity team. Their job was to write algorithms to find political misinformation on the platform in countries like the US, Brazil, Japan, Argentina and others.
Ingle said she was “pretty sure I was done” when she couldn’t access her work email on Saturday. Notification from the contractor that hired her came two hours later.
“I’m just going to put my resumes out there and talk to people,” she said. “I have two kids. And I’m worried about being able to give them a happy Christmas, you know, and such everyday things that are important. I just think it’s particularly heartless to do that at this time.”
Content moderation expert Sarah Roberts, an associate professor at the University of California at Los Angeles who worked as a staffer at Twitter earlier this year, said she believes at least 3,000 contract workers were laid off on Saturday night.
Twitter didn’t say how many contract workers it cut. The company has not responded to media requests for information since Musk acquired it.
At Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters and other offices, contract workers wore green badges, while full-time employees wore blue badges. Contractors performed a variety of tasks to keep Twitter running, including engineering and marketing, Roberts said. But it was the massive force of contracted presenters that was “mission-critical” for the platform, Roberts said.
Cutting them “will have a noticeable impact on the experience of the platform,” she said.
Musk promised to relax language restrictions when he took over Twitter. But in the early days, after Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion in late October and fired its board and top executives, Tesla’s billionaire CEO sought to reassure civil rights groups and advertisers that the platform could continue to quash hate and hateful violence .
That message was echoed by Twitter’s then head of content moderation, Yoel Roth, who tweeted that the November 4 layoffs only affected “15% of our Trust & Safety organization (as opposed to about 50% company-wide cuts) with ours Frontline moderators experience the least impact.”
Roth has since retired from the company, joining an exodus of senior executives tasked with privacy, cybersecurity and compliance.
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