Tesla Inc TSLA CEO Elon Musk faces a test of how to manage misinformation and hate speech on Twitter as the U.S. votes in midterm elections just days after the billionaire sacked staff who policed user content.
Critics had already flagged Musk's plans to loosen content moderation at his newly acquired social media site when he began implementing a plan to sack half of Twitter's 7,500-strong workforce.
Additionally, Twitter plans to launch a new subscription service in some jurisdictions, including the U.S. and U.K., charging users $7.99 a month for a product that would include "Blue Tick" verifications.
The move comes ahead of Tuesday's elections that will decide Congress control.
Major brands have also paused advertising on the platform over fears that Musk, a self-described "free speech absolutist," would weaken content moderation.
Yoel Roth, Twitter's head of trust and safety, said that the job cuts affected about 15% of the trust and safety team "with our front-line moderation staff experiencing the least impact." He added: "Our core moderation capabilities remain in place."
However, Chris Krebs, former director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said that the new subscription model for verified profiles was a "major risk" on the cusp of the election, during which the "source of information is critical."
Edward Perez, a former director of product management at Twitter, said that the verification scheme was "a clash between moneymaking & validating authenticity . . . Rushing this out days before election day is a bad idea."
Responding to concerns over the verification system, Musk said that "any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying 'parody' will be permanently suspended" without warning.
Ahead of the midterm elections, disinformation watchdogs also say they are concerned that an aggressive effort by Alphabet Inc GOOG GOOGL YouTube to confront misinformation on the Google-owned platform has developed blind spots.
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