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Musk’s latest cuts at Twitter: Outsource content moderators


Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk is further losing teams fighting misinformation on the social media platform after it emerged over the weekend that outsourced moderators were out of a job.

Twitter and other major social media companies rely heavily on contractors to monitor hate and other harmful content.

But many of those content controllers are now out the door, first when Twitter laid off most of its full-time employees in a Nov. 4 email and now as it seeks to eliminate countless contract jobs.

Melissa Ingle, who has worked at Twitter as a contractor for more than a year, was one of a number of contractors who said they were fired without notice on Saturday. She said she was concerned that abuse on Twitter would increase because more workers were leaving.

“I love the platform and I really enjoyed working at the company and trying to make it better. And I’m just really afraid of what might slip through the cracks,” she said on Sunday.

Ingle, a data scientist, said she worked on data and monitoring for Twitter’s civil integrity team. Her work included writing algorithms to find political misinformation on the platform in countries such as the US, Brazil, Japan, Argentina and other countries.

Ingle said she was “pretty sure I was done” when she couldn’t access her work email on Saturday. The message from the contracting company where she was hired came two hours later.

“I’m just going to post my resumes and talk to people,” she said. “I have two children. And I’m worried if I’m going to be able to give them a nice Christmas, you know, and ordinary things like that are important. I just think it’s especially heartless to do it at this time.’

Content moderation expert Sarah Roberts, an associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, tweeted Sunday that about “3,000+ employees at a Twitter contractor were laid off last night.”

Twitter does not say how many contract workers it has cut. The company has gutted its communications department and has not responded to media inquiries since Musk took over.

Contractors also do other work to keep Twitter running,

“All contractors are not content moderation agents,” Roberts said. “Contractors play many key roles in a company. But almost all moderators are contractors.”

In the early days after Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion in late October and fired its board and top executives, Tesla’s billionaire CEO sought to reassure rights groups and advertisers that the platform could continue to fight hate.

That message was echoed by Twitter’s then-head of content moderation, Joel Roth, who tweeted that the layoffs on Nov. 4 affected only “15 percent of our Trust & Safety organization (as opposed to approximately 50 percent cuts across the company), and our moderation staff at the first line has the least impact.”

Roth has since resigned from the company, joining an exodus of high-level executives tasked with protecting privacy, cybersecurity and regulatory compliance.

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