Layoffs Have Stretched Twitter’s Child Safety Team Alarmingly Thin

The group overseeing the entire Asia-Pacific region is reportedly down to just one person.

The team responsible for removing child sexual abuse material from Twitter has lost a significant number of staffers as a result of Elon Musk’s takeover of the company, with its Asia-Pacific division left with just one person.

Globally, the staff tasked with finding and banning the content now stands at fewer than 10 people, a Bloomberg report found Tuesday — down from a high of around 20 at the start of the year.

That’s despite Musk stating last week that removing child sexual exploitation content was “Priority #1.”

Shortly after the CEO made the claim, Twitter banned a number of hashtags associated with such material. It was undeniable progress, with conservative commentators and Musk die-hards rushing to hail his leadership and proclaim the problem solved.

(In tangentially related news, as of last week, Twitter is now officially allowing COVID-19 misinformation.)

But experts say the issue, long a thorn in the company’s side, most certainly persists. And with a dramatically smaller oversight team to monitor and moderate content, the situation is now likely worse than before.

“The problem is much more complicated than just a few hashtags,” Jess Maddox, an assistant professor at The University of Alabama who studies internet culture, told the Daily Dot.

“Musk’s bizarre tweets regarding removing child abuse for Twitter are simultaneously underscored and complicated by the fact he allegedly let go most of the site’s content moderators—who could actually aid in the removal.”

While many platforms use automated tools to screen content, Twitter’s enforcement software, called RedPanda, is far too ill-equipped for the task, according to an August report from the The Verge.

That inadequacy means the company is heavily reliant on manual screening to catch material before it ends up alongside corporate advertising.

In September, a number of major advertisers suspended campaigns on Twitter for exactly that reason, after ads appeared alongside tweets soliciting child pornography. Those affected by the issue included Walt Disney, PBS Kids, and even a children’s hospital, a Reuters report found.

Hosting the content isn’t just terrible for advertising and against Twitter’s rules; it’s also illegal.

Should the company’s moderation get even worse, it could run afoul of regulators around the globe, opening itself up to potentially massive fines and regulatory misery.

Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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