- Juliana Gragnani – @julianagragnani
- World Service Misinformation Group
A key team at Twitter responsible for fighting misinformation on Twitter has been disbanded by the company’s new owner, Elon Musk.
This group monitors the content of the social network and contextualizes inappropriate or inappropriate posts; Highlighted news sources with verification; And created threads of reliable posts on hot topics in the world’s most spoken languages.
Different units monitored publications in English, Spanish, Arabic, Hindi, Portuguese and Japanese. Teams worked in Sydney, Singapore, London, Accra (Ghana), Tokyo, Mexico City and Sao Paulo, as well as in the United States.
All teams were cut.
The BBC spoke to five former members of watchdogs around the world. They requested anonymity for fear that speaking out could affect compensation packages.
Twitter did not respond to a BBC request for comment.
‘Eyes and Ears’
“We had a huge global influence. We only had eyes and ears on the ground in different countries,” says a senior member of one of the teams.
According to this person, the local groups were able to discover the cultural nuances of each country.
“For example, there was a lot of pre-election research and preparation in each location. The teams were able to better understand the local situation and anticipate instances of misinformation.”
Another person in charge of surveillance — who learned he was fired when he lost access to his email — says he’s deeply concerned. “Everybody’s experience is made worse by a lack of direction,” he says. “My fear is that it will become a far-right platform.”
Twitter is a different platform for each user depending on which accounts they follow and their interests and their location.
Watchdog groups added verified tweets from trusted sources to discussions of viral and misinformed topics. They also used the Moments tool — a collection of verified and authoritative posts about a topic or news.
This will no longer happen.
“We don’t review or censor. We don’t remove content, but we promote content [com contextualização]🇧🇷 We were alerted and we worked with partners if any false information increased,” says a member of the monitoring group.
Later, verified and contextualized information was highlighted on the website.
Members of the watchdog groups say there are still “ghosts” in the work they’ve been doing: programmed content continues to be produced, such as live pages covering elections or the war in Ukraine.
But there is a time limit for publishing this content and soon Twitter users will be left unrestricted on the platform.
This is already happening in some countries.
Last week, the “Ministry of Defense” was in the middle Popular topics In Brazil. Clicking on the title led to posts falsely claiming the government had found evidence of fraud in the Brazilian electoral system.
Without the work of watchdog groups, there is no contextualization and verification to cover up misinformation that spreads out of control.
In early December, Indians living in Gujarat, the birthplace of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, go to the polls. The controversy will be a barometer of the chances of the ruling BJP in the 2024 general elections.
Previous polls in India have been riddled with misinformation. Elections are now held in English or Hindi without Twitter curation – there was never any monitoring in Gujarati.
In Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries, the layoffs “will have a huge impact,” says social media expert Luis Ángel Hurtado Razo, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
“Twitter is not the most used network in these countries. But because it shares information quickly and easily, it has become very influential in the public sphere. Misinformation spreads from Twitter to other platforms,” says Hurtado Razo.
In Mexico, for example, he says, there aren’t enough fact-checking agencies, and without the network’s work, fake news could spread widely on the platform.
Different places and languages have different problems. In Arabic, the Popular topics Suffers from massive amounts of spam. Monitoring teams worked on a plan to address the problem. It is not known whether the project will continue.
Twitter’s only office in Africa was in Ghana. Launched only last year, the company said it aims to be more of a conversation piece on the continent. Now almost all employees have been laid off.
“Twitter has done very little when it comes to supporting sub-Saharan Africa,” says Rosemary Ajayi, founder of the Digital Africa Research Lab. “The focus is on the northern hemisphere. There are actors who handle the stage [na África] Over the years, there has been a lot of violence and a lot of misinformation.”
“Twitter under the musk? We’re confused,” he says. But with the reduction in content monitoring, “things are going to get a lot uglier.”
With a report by Mariam Isimdar
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