Israel in trouble as Twitter’s safety division is gutted - analysis

Battle lines have started to be drawn between liberals, who tend to be demoralized or disgusted with Musk, and conservatives, who tend to be thrilled or calmed by his takeover.

 A 3D-printed Twitter logo on non-3D printed Twitter logos is seen in this picture illustration taken April 28, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC)
A 3D-printed Twitter logo on non-3D printed Twitter logos is seen in this picture illustration taken April 28, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC)

Will Israel be endangered by the revolution Elon Musk has started at Twitter since his October 27 takeover?

Battle lines have started to be drawn between liberals, who tend to be demoralized or disgusted with Musk, and conservatives, who tend to be thrilled or calmed by his takeover.

But this is only when the narrow issue being discussed is Musk’s reinstatement of former US President Donald Trump along with some other famous provocative conservatives onto Twitter.

What about when reducing Twitter’s policing of its content gives terrorists a freer hand, say, against Israel?

No one has put out a study on the issue to date, and with some of the biggest changes at Twitter happening only in the last two weeks or so (Musk became even more aggressive in reducing content limits around November 10), it is too early to say for sure.

SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives on the red carpet for the automobile awards ''Das Goldene Lenkrad''  (credit: REUTERS)SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives on the red carpet for the automobile awards ''Das Goldene Lenkrad'' (credit: REUTERS)

Tech Against Terrorism raises concerns over extreme tweets

“I urge Elon Musk and Twitter’s senior leadership to reaffirm their commitment to tackling the terrorist use of the Internet.

Adam Hadley, executive director, Tech Against Terrorism

But the UN-backed group Tech Against Terrorism has already expressed significant concerns about how Musk’s gutting Twitter’s Trust and Safety Department could harm message board’s ability to block tweets in support of terrorism and even terroristic logistics, fundraising or recruitment.

A spectrum of media reports recently quoted Adam Hadley, executive director of the group, who said regarding Musk’s tactics, “I urge Elon Musk and Twitter’s senior leadership to reaffirm their commitment to tackling the terrorist use of the Internet. We recognize that moderation of terrorist content is a significant challenge even for the most sophisticated tech platforms. We are concerned that any real or perceived erosion of content moderation capability on the larger social media platforms threatens reverse years of progress and could further embolden terrorists and violent extremists to return.”

Hadley was concerned by revelations that on his first day in charge, Musk fired Twitter’s chief content officer Vijaya Gadde.

Only a few short days later, Yoel Roth, Gadde’s replacement, resigned in protest over Musk lowering the standards for policing content.

Within a period of weeks, a mix of layoffs and frustration at the changing policies and chaotic atmosphere brought the Trust and Safety Department down from around 120 employees to only a few dozen.

Those who have been fired or who quit have included most of those in the unit dedicated to blocking foreign influence campaigns.

Meanwhile, Musk has been talking up doing much of the content policing by automation.

Automation is notorious for being easily fooled by terrorists and hate groups making small changes in the verbiage they use, or in the names of their accounts.

At the same time, Musk has reportedly said that “merely” hateful content will usually not lead to banning an account going forward. Rather, only “sticks and stones” or violent threats will now get someone booted off the platform, and hate speech may just be minimized somewhat in terms of exposure.

In contrast, Tech Against Terrorism said, “Experts in content moderation have built decades of vital experience and have shown leadership as terrorists continuously attempt to exploit loopholes in tech platforms, and so we are concerned this capability could take a significant amount of time to rebuild once lost.”

Experts in the UK have also recently warned that Twitter was in “real and present danger” from extremism and hate, flagging a rise in hate groups and accounts trying to restore their once-banned content to Twitter.

Israeli officials told The Jerusalem Post that it is too early to say what the impact will be in terms of terrorism an antisemitism.

Some expect Musk to remain tough on banning terrorist-related accounts, even if he is more forgiving to aggressive and nasty speech against woke people and woke values.

At the same time, the officials say they are keeping a close eye on the issue and could be prepared to pass a social media law that would obligate Twitter and other social media platforms to remove certain posts and accounts.

Under a prior proposed bill, failure to remove requested posts could lead Israeli law enforcement to do so itself, and even impact the operation of the platform in question within Israel. The bill was tabled once all of the social media giants started to voluntarily remove around 90% or more of the posts that Israeli law enforcement asked them to remove.

A spokesman for the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) declined to respond.

However, in the past, some Israeli defense sources have expressed mixed feelings about removing certain posts, since this can also drive terrorists deeper into the dark web, including “underground” online platforms where they can be harder to track.

Many more sophisticated terrorists in ISIS and other militant organizations already made the move to underground platforms a few years ago and may not rush back to Twitter.

Meanwhile, Musk himself has only promoted confusion, getting into fights with the Anti-Defamation League and removing a ban on Kanye West, who has been loudly promoting antisemitic tropes, but going out of his way to personally condemn and delete a particular terror-related account and complimenting the Israeli Foreign Ministry on its comical response to the rapper.

What is for sure is that terrorism and antisemitism trends on Twitter are going to be carefully watched in the future.