Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter could “unravel” years of work to make the platform safer, one campaigner has warned.
Seyi Akiwowo, chief executive of UK-based online safety organisation Glitch, highlighted Mr Musk’s decision to remove Twitter’s head of legal policy, trust and safety, Vijaya Gadde.
Ms Gadde is one of several senior figures – also including chief executive Parag Agrawal, who have been ousted upon Mr Musk taking control of the company.
Mr Musk’s belief in what he calls “absolute free speech” and that any content which is not illegal should be allowed to stay on Twitter has previously raised concerns among safety experts.
The new Twitter owner has also suggested he does not agree with permanent bans from the site and that he would allow previously suspended accounts, such as that of former US president Donald Trump, to return to the platform.
Ms Akiwowo said she was “very concerned” that the Musk takeover would mean that “the progress Twitter has finally made on safety over the last six years will unravel in the next few weeks”.
Posting on Twitter, she called on the site’s users collectively to lobby the company to commit to continued existing safety standards.
“We need to organise. We need an agreed code of practice, the minimum standard we expect Twitter to adhere to no matter what,” she said, adding that users should be “prepared to leave” the platform if these standards were not met.
“For this to work we need millions of users, companies and celebrities to use their influence and power. We need an agreed inclusive standard that doesn’t allow for division but multidirectional allyship,” she said.
For this to work we need millions of users, companies and celebrities to use their influence and power.We need an agreesd inclusive standard that doesn't allow for division but multidirectional allyship. I.e. one community's liberation is also my liberation
— Oluwaseyi Akiwowo (@seyiakiwowo) October 28, 2022
“If we’re not willing to be organised, influence, fundraise, be uncomfortable and truly commit to allyship… Elon Musk and the far-right ideology masked as freedom of expression will win. Other platforms will follow and there will be a race to the bottom – doing the bare minimum.”
On Thursday, Mr Musk moved to reassure nervous Twitter advertisers that he would not allow the site to become a “free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences”.
He said the site would be “adhering to the laws of the land” and must be “warm and welcoming to all, where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences”.
The billionaire’s plans to open up Twitter’s content rules are also likely to face difficulty when new tech regulation comes into force in the UK and around the world.
Although recently delayed again, the Online Safety Bill in the UK would compel platforms to remove all illegal content as well as take action against designated “legal but harmful” material, with companies facing fines that could run into billions of pounds or have access to their site blocked if they breach the rules.