Twitter started to prepare for the midterm elections. Next up is Musk

There are less than two weeks until the midterm elections, and roughly 20 workers from across Twitter have offered to help the internal "Election Squad" of the social network uphold its policies at a pivotal time in American politics. The volunteers received intensive training this week, covering the fundamentals of how to identify propaganda-sending bots, identify election disinformation, and report potential rule breaches to Twitter's policy team.

As the company's overworked content moderators work around the clock for a week before and after the vote to stem the tide of viral falsehoods, intimidation campaigns, and foreign influence operations, the call for volunteers has been part of an all-hands-on-deck strategy for major elections since 2018.

However, the corporation is in worse shape than ever during this election cycle, which raises the possibility that shady political operators may be able to utilize the platform to mislead voters or cast doubt on the validity of the results. Since a new CEO took over, Twitter has seen a year of administrative upheaval; hundreds of staff are said to have departed the firm, and a high-ranking whistleblower has warned that the company lacks the means to worldwide implement its own election regulations.

The fact that Twitter will likely be acquired by billionaire Elon Musk for $44 billion by Friday will only increase the confusion. He has stated that he will eliminate up to 75% of Twitter's employees, scale back the company's content moderation efforts, and reinstall some of its most prominent distributors of election misinformation. It is unclear how his modifications would impact Twitter's long-term strategy.

Eddie Perez, former product director for Twitter's civic integrity, which covers its election regulations, stated, "Given the fast surge in the magnitude of disinformation since 2020, it's legitimate to worry if they can stay up." Perez now serves on the board of the OSET Institute, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to election security and integrity.

A spokesman for Twitter, Katie Rosborough, acknowledged the request for volunteers ahead of the midterm elections and said that the business has previously done the same during the 2018 Brazilian elections as well as the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

People use Twitter to obtain up-to-date, trustworthy information on elections, and Rosborough stated that by investing in this project, they can see how seriously they are taking that role.

When The Post enquired about Musk's plans for the first few days of ownership, Musk did not react. He spoke with executives during his visit to Twitter's San Francisco headquarters on Wednesday, and he will likely address workers on Friday. He has continually attacked the corporation since announcing his takeover offer for what he perceives as excessive censorship of internet expression.

Musk has also hinted that he would relax the company's restriction on former president Donald Trump, whose unpredictable tweets might, on any given day, completely alter the political landscape of the nation.

Twitter has had a significant impact on world politics throughout the Arab Spring, the Trump administration, #MeToo, and Black Lives Matter movements. This is surprising given the company's relative size in comparison to rivals like Meta and Alphabet. Following disclosures in 2017 of Russian influence programs that exploited social media to inflame societal issues in the United States before to the 2016 presidential election, Twitter, like its competitors, started investing more extensively in content moderation. It has taken advantage of the passion of its staff to "guard the dialogue" during significant political events.

However, the swarms of bots and the speed at which falsehoods may spread over its platform have frequently given the impression that it is outclassed.

For social media sites like Twitter, the midterm elections have been particularly challenging, in part because hundreds of GOP candidates have accepted former president Donald Trump's false claim that the 2020 election was rigged. Social media has been used by those candidates' and their supporters to create rumors about election tampering.

Twitter's actions carry significant risks. Such false information on social media, according to experts, may make Americans lose trust in the political process. Additionally, during a campaign season when both the House and the Senate are up for grabs, the firms must make difficult judgments about what information to leave up or take down.

Twitter published a plan for the 2022 midterm elections in August that closely followed the tactics the business used in past election cycles, including boosting correct election information while limiting the spread of false information. According to Twitter, posts that damage public trust in the democratic process, such as allegations that the 2020 election was manipulated, may receive misleading labels or be removed.

According to two people familiar with internal debates who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe them, the company previously backed off on this so-called "civic integrity" policy after the 2020 election had concluded, despite the internal worry that election deniers were still using it to push lies and distortions. As risks and consequences related to the election grew, the business "ramped down enforcement," according to Rosborough, of its U.S. election policy.

Additionally, the business launched state-specific event hubs for the primaries, labeled candidate accounts, and redesigned its labels for tweets that included inaccurate information. In the upcoming weeks, it will also have taken volunteers from several departments away from their regular duties to assist protect "the authenticity and integrity of election-related dialogue on the platform."

The message requested the volunteers to sign up for four-hour sessions over a two-week period beginning on November 1 and ending on November 15. They were also asked to mention their proficiency in any other languages. According to the audit in the whistleblower report, Twitter's content moderators frequently used Google Translate because of its limited language support.

In order to prepare for the election, Rosborough noted that the company's leaders from various divisions had been gathering on a regular basis for more than a year. She said that it had "worked effectively" in previous elections and described the request for volunteers with particular skill sets as a mechanism to "ensure we have redundancy in place" at a crucial time.

Around the midterm elections, Twitter also engaged in "a number of tabletop and threat model exercises," according to Rosborough. If the corporation has prepared for what may happen to its attempts to ensure election integrity if and when Musk gains control, she declined to comment on the subject.

For the time being, Twitter staff working on the company's midterm preparations are moving on, but many are secretly concerned that Musk may soon stop or erase part of their work.

On condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to speak to the media, a staffer said, "I think he could tear up those regulations surrounding civic integrity and suspend enforcement pretty much immediately." Imagine that there will be a lot of films showing individuals being intimidated as they vote, along with false narratives about who they are, doxing them, and tracking the popularity of their names.

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