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Twitter turmoil could be exploited by terrorists, experts warn

The ongoing upheaval at Twitter could pose a threat to the national security of countries around the world as terrorists exploit staff cuts and content moderation changes, experts have warned.

The platform’s new owner Elon Musk has cut thousands of staff and a number of key managers overseeing safety and content have also left the company.

UN-backed safety group Tech Against Terrorism has now warned this is causing an erosion of content moderation capabilities that could allow terrorists to return more freely to online platforms.

Elon Musk File Photo
The upheaval at Twitter caused by Elon Musk’s ownership could threaten security, experts have warned (PA)

Adam Hadley, executive director of the group, said: “I urge Elon Musk and Twitter’s senior leadership to reaffirm their commitment to tackling the terrorist use of the internet.

“We recognise that moderation of terrorist content is a significant challenge even for the most sophisticated tech platforms.

“We are concerned that any real or perceived erosion of content moderation capability on the larger social media platforms threatens reverse years of progress and could further embolden terrorists and violent extremists to return.”

Mr Hadley said Tech Against Terrorism was becoming increasingly concerned at the number of key safety staff leaving Twitter, and these gaps could be exploited.

“Even over the past week, we have discovered that key members of the Policy and Trust and Safety teams at Twitter have left their roles,” he said.

Right across the tech sector we’re seeing emails bouncing back at a time when we need to collaborate.

“Experts in content moderation have built decades of vital experience and have shown leadership as terrorists continuously attempt to exploit loopholes in tech platforms and so we are concerned this capability could take a significant amount of time to rebuild once lost.”

It comes just days after experts in the UK warned that Twitter was in “real and present danger” from extremism and hate and reported an increase in hate groups and accounts making efforts to return to the platform in the wake of Mr Musk’s takeover.

Mr Hadley also expressed concerns about Mr Musk’s proposed changes to content moderation at Twitter, which have included the billionaire saying he would allow more free speech and allow previously banned accounts – including those which broke rules around inciting violence – to return to the site.

“We are concerned that changes to content moderation at Twitter will send a troubling signal to terrorists and violent extremists seeking to exploit the platform,” he said.

“In our routine monitoring at Tech Against Terrorism, some violent extremists, once banned, are now expressing plans to be back.

“Twitter has spent the last five years striving to thwart terrorist and violent extremist content.

“We note that Twitter has said in the past few days that ‘core moderation capabilities’ will be maintained. No more is this crucial than in the moderation of terrorist and violent extremist content.”