Updated Dec 13, 2022 - Technology

Twitter disbands Trust and Safety Council

Elon Musk and a Twitter logo are seen in this illustration photo in Warsaw, Poland on 30 November, 2022.

An illustration of Elon Musk and a Twitter logo. Photo:STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Twitter disbanded its "Trust and Safety Council," according to an email sent Monday night to the members of the panel that was obtained by news outlets including Axios.

Why it matters: It's another example of owner Elon Musk rolling back years of efforts designed to make the social media site a more civil and safer place, per the Washington Post.

Context: The council comprised dozens of expert advisory groups volunteering since 2016 to address what the since-deleted page described as "issues critical to the health of the public conversation."

  • Their key focus areas were online safety and harassment, human and digital rights, suicide prevention and mental health, child sexual exploitation and dehumanization.
  • Members of the group included GLAAD, the Human Rights Foundation, the Samaritans, the International Network Against Cyberhate and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
  • Council member Alex Holmes noted in a tweet Monday night that the group of volunteers was at no point responsible for decision-making on the platform.

Driving the news: "As Twitter moves into a new phase, we are reevaluating how best to bring external insights into our product and policy development work," the company said in the email thanking the volunteers for their work.

  • "As part of this process, we have decided that the Trust and Safety Council is not the best structure to do this," added the email, signed only "Twitter."
  • "Our work to make Twitter a safe, informative place will be moving faster and more aggressively than ever before and we will continue to welcome your ideas going forward about how to achieve this goal," it read.

Of note: Twitter canceled a meeting with the volunteers before sending the email, per a tweet from Holmes, deputy CEO of nonprofit The Diana Award.

  • Holmes said that over the past week "several members of council have had their personal safety and well-being impacted by the actions of Twitter staff."

What they're saying: "Twitter has made it abundantly clear that trust and safety are no longer priorities for the company, given this abrupt dismissal of the Trust & Safety Council as well as its dangerous policy choices over the last month and invitations for suspended accounts to rejoin," a GLAAD spokesperson told Axios.

  • "Until the company returns to following basic industry-wide best practices on hateful content, the platform clearly remains unsafe not only for LGBTQ users but for brands and advertisers."
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit that promotes press freedom worldwide, and another council member said the action was a cause for "grave concern, particularly as it is coupled with increasingly hostile statements by Twitter owner Elon Musk about journalists and the media."

The big picture: Musk has committed to making Twitter a haven for free speech, but he has also said the removal of child sexual abuse material is his "number one priority."

  • The company has lost roughly two thirds of its staff since Musk took over, including many employees who worked on trust and safety and related areas.

Flashback: Three members of the council resigned last week in protest at the Twitter changes, citing in a statement evidence they said showed that "contrary to claims by Elon Musk, the safety and wellbeing of Twitter's users are on the decline."

  • Musk responded by tweeting "It is a crime that they refused to take action on child exploitation for years!" — prompting Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey to call Musk's claim "false."

Go deeper: Elon Musk's Twitter sees rise in racial slurs, hate speech -

Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional details throughout.

Go deeper