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Elon Musk defends Twitter layoffs amid misinformation fears

Elon Musk
Elon Musk

Twitter’s new boss Elon Musk has defended his decision to lay off scores of employees a week after his $44 billion acquisition of the platform. 

About half of the San Francisco-based company’s staff of 7,500 were let go on Friday, according to Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety and integrity.

Tweets by staff said teams responsible for communications, content curation, human rights and machine learning ethics were among those gutted. Roth said the company’s front-line moderation staff was the group least impacted by the job cuts.

A group of employees who were fired on Thursday said they filed a lawsuit against Musk, arguing that they had not been given the legally required notice period. 

“Regarding Twitter’s reduction in force, unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day,” Musk wrote on Twitter.

“Everyone exited was offered 3 months of severance, which is 50% more than legally required.” 

Elon Musk blames ‘activists’

Musk said earlier on Friday that Twitter saw “a massive drop in revenue” since he took over the social media giant. He blamed “activists” for pressuring advertisers to pull out amid concerns about content moderation. 

Major advertisers, including General Motors Co and General Mills Inc, announced they would stop advertising on Twitter until they learned about the platform’s new direction under Musk’s leadership. 

A group of more than 60 civil society groups, under the name “Free Press,” had urged advertisers to boycott Twitter until the platform committed to being a “safe place.” 

The coalition said they had met with Musk to express their profound concerns over a “spike in toxic content” since he took over the company. 

Concerns over misinformation and hate speech

US President Joe Biden said at a campaign event late Friday that Musk purchased a platform that “spews lies all across the world.” 

“And now what are we all worried about: Elon Musk goes out and buys an outfit that sends — that spews lies all across the world,” Biden said.

“There’s no editors anymore in America. There’s no editors. How do we expect kids to be able to understand what is at stake?”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre earlier told reporters that Biden had been clear about the need to restrict hate speech and misinformation on all social media platforms.

Clamping down on Twitter’s content restrictions was one of the reasons Musk, a self-professed free-speech absolutist, sought to buy Twitter in the first place. 

A study by Montclair State University reported a spike in hate speech on Twitter soon after Musk’s takeover. 

The study said the acquisition had “created the perception by extremist users that content restrictions would be alleviated.” 

But Musk has insisted that Twitter’s commitment to content moderation hasn’t changed, and claimed that “we have actually seen hateful speech at times this week decline *below* our prior norms.”

fb/nm (AFP, AP, Reuters) 

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