UK Markets closed

Elon Musk told ‘actions speak louder than words’ over Twitter safety rules

The head of a leading civil society group has said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the future safety of Twitter after meeting the site’s new owner Elon Musk but warned him that “actions speak louder than words”.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), was one of a number of civil society group figures to meet with Mr Musk about combating hate on the platform.

Mr Musk’s takeover of Twitter has sparked concern among many safety and anti-hate campaigners because of his previous statements around loosening the site’s content moderation rules and allowing banned users to return, including former US president Donald Trump.

But Mr Greenblatt said the groups had had a “productive meeting” with the billionaire and appreciated his “willingness to hear our concerns”, although he added that “ultimately, actions speak louder than words”.

He called on Mr Musk’s Twitter to introduce a “transparent process” for re-admitting any banned users to the site, the continued enforcement of election integrity and the full introduction of Mr Musk’s proposed content moderation council containing representatives from a range of campaign groups.

In a statement posted to Twitter by Mr Greenblatt on behalf of the Stop Hate for Profit coalition of which the ADL is a part, the campaigners said: “The Stop Hate for Profit Coalition has been alarmed about the recent and potential changes being discussed for Twitter.

“We have already seen an uptick in extremist activity, racism, antisemitism, homophobia, disinformation and more.

“Advertisers share our concerns, and we have been in conversation with them about whether Twitter remains a safe place for advertising.

“We discussed our profound concerns with Elon Musk yesterday and had a productive conversation.

“We appreciate that he committed to not re-platforming anyone until there is a clear and transparent process; maintaining the infrastructure, enforcement and policies for election disinformation until at least after mid-term elections have been finalised, and including representatives of groups who face hate-filled violence in designing and participating in content moderation policies and processes, including a proposed council.

“However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Much more needs to be done to reduce lies and hate on Twitter, and backtracking on the last year of progress on the platform is not an option for users, advertisers or society overall.

“Actions speak louder than words, and we will be monitoring Twitter’s policies and enforcement in the coming days.”

Mr Musk has said that no permanently banned accounts will be allowed back onto the platform for “at least a few more weeks” as the company builds the new content moderation council he has pledged to create.

The social media giant’s new owner had raised concerns before buying the firm by suggesting he planned to overturn the bans given to controversial figures, such as Mr Trump, who was banned from the platform in 2021 after the company said he had repeatedly breached its rules around inciting violence with tweets about the January 6 riots at the US Capitol.

In the months before completing his takeover of Twitter, Mr Musk had said he believed the banning of the former president was a mistake and that he would reverse it.

But his well-known stance on allowing “absolute free speech” appears to have softened slightly in the face of advertisers potentially fleeing the platform in response to such polarising figures – many of which were removed for inciting hate or violence – returning.

Posting to Twitter after he said he had met the civil society groups, the billionaire Tesla and SpaceX owner said Twitter “will not allow anyone who was de-platformed for violating Twitter rules back on platform until we have a clear process for doing so”, adding that this would take “at least a few more weeks”.

“Twitter’s content moderation council will include representatives with widely divergent views, which will certainly include the civil rights community and groups who face hate-fueled violence,” he said.