Elon Musk has once again found himself at the center of controversy on Twitter. Just a week ago, things seemed to be stabilizing for the tech entrepreneur’s ownership of the platform. However, a political firestorm erupted on Thursday when conservative pundits began pushing a video entitled ‘What Is A Woman?’, which Musk subsequently promoted. This resulted in the departure of two high-level employees who had been leading Twitter’s efforts to moderate content.
The incident began when Jeremy Boreing, CEO of The Daily Wire, claimed that the video was being suppressed. Boreing also alleged that a previously-agreed distribution deal had been canceled due to ‘misgendering’ trans people. Under Musk’s leadership, the platform had dramatically relaxed its rules regarding misgendering, but this move was widely criticized. LGBTQ organizations argued that the change made it easier for transgender people to be bullied and harassed online.
Although Musk initially attempted to defend the decision to allow the video to be posted, he eventually relented under pressure from right-wing influencers. The film was subsequently shared extensively on Twitter, attracting over 62 million views by Friday evening. Both The Daily Wire and star of the video, Matt Walsh, declined to comment.
The controversy is the latest in a series of challenges that have faced Musk since he took over Twitter for $44 billion last year. The billionaire laid off most of the company’s staff and then rehired some of them, leading to considerable instability. Musk has also been criticized for turning the platform in an ideologically conservative direction by welcoming controversial figures like Tucker Carlson and relaxing restrictions around bullying and hate speech.
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One of the executives who resigned in protest at Musk’s promotion of ‘What Is A Woman?’ was Ella Irwin. Although she had been a staunch supporter of Musk’s leadership thus far, the incident proved a bridge too far. The outgoing CEO of Twitter’s trust and safety division had her internal Slack account deactivated just hours after Musk’s decision was made public.
Critics of Musk’s views on trans rights argue that he needs to engage more closely with the community affected by his policies. By contrast, other Silicon Valley figures have been more supportive of trans issues. The CEO of Asana argued that meeting with trans people had been key to his changing his mind on the subject. For her part, Irwin had come under fire for the rise in hate speech targeting LGBTQ people on the platform under her watch.
Every parent should watch this https://t.co/pIp6UP6vq8
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 2, 2023
Twitter itself was mostly silent in response to the incident, providing only a brief, automated statement in response to reporters’ enquiries. The new permanent CEO, Linda Yaccarino, has also refused to comment directly on the controversy. This has led to increased calls from observers for Twitter to take a firmer stance on issues such as hate speech and harassment on its platform.
While no one knows for certain how Musk’s tenure at Twitter will end, the latest incident has highlighted the challenges associated with running the platform. As one former trust and safety employee commented, it is often unclear how much influence people in such roles actually have. Nevertheless, Musk will need to take greater care in future to avoid being embroiled in further controversies.
Since Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, the platform has become more conservative in its outlook. Carlson, a conservative pundit, has featured heavily, while the company has relaxed rules around bullying and hate speech. However, this move has brought Twitter under increasingly intense scrutiny, with critics arguing that the company is neglecting its responsibility to tackle online abuse.
The decision by Musk to promote a controversial video about transgender issues has led to the departure of several high-level staff members. Ella Irwin, CEO of Twitter’s trust and safety division, was among those who resigned in protest. However, Musk has defended his actions, arguing that people should be allowed to express their views, even if others disagree with them.
Critics of Musk’s views on trans issues argue that he needs to become more closely engaged with the affected community. Many believe that he should meet with trans people to learn more about their experiences. By contrast, other Silicon Valley leaders have been more supportive of trans rights.
What is clear is that Twitter is under increasing pressure to address issues such as bullying and hate speech on its platform. While Musk has made some efforts to tackle these problems, there is clearly much more that needs to be done. It remains to be seen how he will respond to the ongoing criticism he is receiving.
The controversy over the ‘What Is A Woman?’ video demonstrates just how difficult it can be to achieve stability at a company like Twitter. The platform has long been a target for criticism due to its perceived laxity around online harassment. But with Musk at the helm, these controversies are reaching even greater heights.
Although it remains to be seen what the long-term impact of Musk’s leadership will be, it is clear that the platform is going through a period of significant upheaval. New CEO Yaccarino will need to work closely with Musk to ensure that the platform is able to meet its responsibilities to users.
The rising political polarization of social media platforms is a worrying trend that is only set to continue. As Twitter and other companies struggle to deal with these challenges, users will also need to be more vigilant about what they post online. By engaging more closely with issues like hate speech and online harassment, we can all help to make social media a safer place.
With its latest controversy, Twitter continues to struggle with issues around free speech, hate speech, and online bullying. While some believe that Musk’s support for conservative voices is a welcome change, others argue that it is perpetuating a dangerous trend that has resulted in widespread harm to marginalized groups.
It remains to be seen what the future holds for Twitter, Musk, and the wider social media landscape. However, it is clear that new approaches to these issues are desperately needed in order to build a more equitable, safe, and harmonious online environment.
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