Twitter users in Ireland can no longer report tweets that may be misleading or actively spreading disinformation.
The removal of the feature is just one of the many changes made by the social media platform since Elon Musk took over as CEO.
Ciarán O’Connor, a Senior Analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), told Newstalk the changes have meant reduced safety for users and less accountability for the company.
“Lots of different user protection safety alerts that were built into Twitter over the last couple of years have been either disappearing or are being discontinued or becoming unusable”, he said.
Another feature, the ‘nudge alert’, which was introduced last year and prompts people to reconsider tweet replies containing harmful language, has also disappeared.
Mr O’Connor said this “backslide in user protection” has meant less accountability for the platform when it comes to the spread of harmful and inaccurate content.
He added that it’s now much easier for state-sponsored disinformation operations to succeed on the platform.
He said the decision to lay off large portions of the workforce has also played a role in the reduced monitoring of Twitter content.
“Twitter has consolidated a lot of its core staff under the new leadership and certain features have received less prioritisation than others and amongst them are these kinds of label and reporting features,” he said.
“The loss of staff and teams that were behind these features is intentional because Musk does seem fairly dogged in his position to make, in his own words, Twitter … a 'total absolutist free speech kind of platform.'”
One former Twitter employee has claimed that managers were told to provide a list of people they thought should be promoted. Twitter then allegedly laid off the managers and promoted the employees that they’d recommended to those management roles. The move was part of cost-cutting measures, the employee said.
Twitter did not respond to Newstalk’s request for comment.
Equally harmful, O’Connor says, is the additional rollback on the protection of users from harassment, threats and hate speech.
“Users who may be receiving abuse directly in their DMs or just being on the receiving end of troll and harassment campaigns also [don’t have] many options or avenues to try and report and mitigate that kind of abuse”, he said.
His colleagues at ISD, a London-based think tank that researches online hate, extremism and misinformation, recently found that tens of thousands of new accounts have been created since Musk took over, which then immediately followed known hateful and misogynistic profiles.
Last week, the BBC revealed that several former Twitter employees believe that the company can no longer protect users from trolling, state-co-ordinated disinformation and child sexual exploitation.
Overall, Twitter has become a “more permissive” platform for hate and misogyny.
This, O’Connor says, coupled with reduced reporting features for deceitful content means Twitter is “becoming quite a toxic environment”.
End of Twitter?
Since the takeover, many users have announced their departure from the platform, with many moving to Mastodon, another social network with similar microblogging features to Twitter.
However, O’Connor isn’t convinced that the masses will abandon Twitter so soon.
“Twitter is still so essential for public services and government departments”, he said.
“We had massive snow in some parts of the country and county councils are using Twitter, they’re not using Mastodon because [Twitter] is where they can still reach more people.”
He added: “From what I’ve seen so far, people have left Twitter in their droves, but it still hasn’t reached the stage where one platform like Mastodon or an alternative or a newer space have taken precedence over it.”