Twitter Under Fire For Ignoring Its Trust And Safety Council

Members of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council are accusing the platform of excluding them from the company’s policy changes.

The Wire published a letter from Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council members demanding Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey address the lack of communication.

“There have been no advance heads-up of Twitter’s policy or product changes to the council, leaving many of us to have no prior warning or let alone knowledge when answering press and media inquiries,” the letter states. “This is embarrassing.”

The authors claim they went months without updates from the tech giant and were frequently unable to reach their contacts at the company. 

The Trust and Safety Council was formed in 2016 to “ to ensure that people feel safe expressing themselves on Twitter,” according to a Twitter blog post. Its members are not employees of Twitter, but a group of safety advocates, community groups, and researchers the company collaborates with to help curb problems like hate speech and harassment that have plagued its platform for years. The council is comprised of approximately 40 organizations and more than a dozen experts from around the world.

Membership of the Trust and Safety Council has been criticized by free speech advocates for being too ideologically homogeneous since the council’s implementation. 

The council includes large organizations such as The Samaritans and GLAAD, and Feminist Frequency, an organization notorious for producing an anti-free speech video series featured on the council, as well as Islamic research center The Wahid Institute.

Amid Twitter facing backlash from conservatives, even President Donald Trump has shown concern over its purported censorship of conservatives, with the tech giant attributing the censorship to the trust and safety council.

Last year, a former Twitter employee blamed the company’s head of trust and safety, Del Harvey, for the platform suspending thousands of conservative users overnight, in what was dubbed the “Twitter lock out.”

Twitter erroneously flagged conservatives users as bots, banned them from their accounts then asked them to provide a phone number to regain access, Mashable reports.

Conservatives and Trump-supporters on Twitter reported losing hundreds, and occasionally thousands of followers overnight.

The full text of the Trust and Safety Council’s letter is below:

Dear Twitter team,

I am writing on behalf of the Trust and Safety Council Members, many of whom copied in have a number of concerns.

Up until a call the other week, the last update to the group was December and while some members have continued to have updates and collaboration with their regional Twitter contacts, some have heard absolutely nothing despite constant chasing up.

As it was mentioned on both the calls for different time zones the other week, this is unacceptable and many of us were sad to hear no acknowledgement or follow up communication after the calls to address this.

When we joined the Council we did so in the hope that it would be a partnership, one where both parties participate and indeed it started out that way. To have Jack spend time with us on both occasions and speak to us was incredible, as many of the other existing industry safety groups have never had the CEO or anyone senior from the company engage with them. And indeed many members commented that last year’s summit was the best example of a way of working with safety partners within the entire industry, with the access to different twitter teams/departments exemplary. It then continued with excellent engagement via email updates and calls, with advance sharing of information and a chance to input on policies before announcements. Which is why it has been extremely disappointing to have had no progress updates this year on what we all worked on at the summit and in previous years. Twitter’s approach has been in the past innovative and very effective and the Twitter health metrics proposals announced at the summits was an example of this. However we have had no update on these proposals, and we have received no update of our own council member Susan’s collaborative study with yourselves. This is no fault of Susan as from what we heard on the call the other week, but is again disappointing to have not had an explanation.

There have been no advance heads up of Twitter’s policy or product changes to the council, leaving many of us to have no prior warning or let alone knowledge when answering press and media enquiries about our role and involvement in the council. This is embarrassing.

While this email cannot speak for everyone, a large number of voices copied in have shared concerns as a group and I will ask that people don’t individually reply so not clog up everyone’s inbox, but a number of us did feel it was important to copy everyone in, to keep everyone in the picture, something which has been missing of late.

We would therefore like to have a call with Jack as CEO to discuss this further as a council, and understand his vision for the council, as many of us have seen he continues to tweet in replies to challenges from users about the importance and reasons for the council existing. We trust that this is possible in a similar way Jack speaks on earnings calls.

We look forward to hearing from you and hearing details of the suggested call and the next steps,

It goes without saying that we all remain dedicated to contributing to safety on the platform.

Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council Members

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