What should Elon Musk’s top priority at Twitter be now that he owns the company?
Restoring the accounts of well-known Twitter users — like former President Donald Trump — who were suspended from the platform for violations of its terms of service? Publicizing the algorithms responsible for promoting or de-promoting any given tweet or account? Ensuring that users can post unpopular opinions to their threads without fear that they’ll be banned simply because they’re unpopular?
How does thwarting the sexual exploitation of children sound?
According to a tweet from Musk himself, that’s “Priority #1” for the site.
Musk was replying to a tweet from Eva Fox, who wrote a piece about Twitter’s efforts to police itself under Musk’s leadership for Tesmanian, an online publication covering news about the various companies Musk owns.
Fox interviewed Eliza Bleu, a human trafficking survivor who now advocates for other victims. Bleu told Fox that Twitter “has not actually done anything meaningful to combat” child sexual exploitation on the platform despite a decade of pleas from advocates — until now.
Will Elon Musk’s ownership improve Twitter?
Bleu wrote in a May Op-Ed that out of over 29 million reports from “electronic service providers” to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children CyberTipline in 2021, fewer than 90,000 had come from Twitter: “I believe that number could, and should, be higher.”
In September, Fox wrote about a study that showed “that pornography, including child pornography, continues to be posted on Twitter, while the users behind these accounts, using simple methods, bypass restrictions on their activities by continuing to publish content, in which children are sexually exploited.”
It didn’t take long for things to change once Musk took over, however, despite setbacks earlier this year.
“Thanks to the efforts of Eliza and those who supported her, in February 2022, Twitter added a feature to easily report child sexual exploitation material, which was a huge victory in a years-long struggle,” Fox wrote yesterday. “However, a few months later, Twitter ‘took the easy reporting system for minor survivors away,’ [Bleu said]. This was deeply disturbing news, as it is difficult to find a reasonable reason why the ability for platform users to easily report about CSE content has been removed.”
Then, this weekend, only three weeks after Musk’s acquisition of the social media giant became final, Bleu was tweeting about “huge” wins in the battle to protect children.
Obviously, Musk’s efforts in this regard are well-placed. If this were the only change that occurred under his leadership, it would be worthy of respect.
But it does make me wonder — how could previous management not have prioritized protecting innocent children over policing political speech? In whose mind, in what universe, could that possibly make sense?
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