The Twitter Massacre

I am amusing myself with watching the panic some people express over Elon Musk’s cleanup of Twitter.

Yesterday 3,700 of its 7,500 workers were fired. That is not good, but the company was losing money and making money is at the core of the capitalist game.

Of interest is what functions were eliminated. The Guardian provides this list:

From news reports and terminated employees’ announcements, here’s what we know so far about the teams that have been hit by the layoffs of thousands of Twitter employees:

The human rights team has been laid off, according to a now former employee, Shannon Raj Singh, who said the team worked to protect those at risk in global conflicts, including in Ukraine, Afghanistan and Ethiopia.
The ML (machine learning) Ethics, Transparency and Accountability team is gone, according to a tweet of a laid-off manager.
The “internet technology team”, which helps keep the site running, has been cut to “a skeleton crew”, two sources told the Times.
An accessibly experience engineering team has been cut, according to a laid-off engineering manager.
The curation team, responsible for the Moments feature on Twitter, has also been cut, former employees reported.
Twitter’s communications department is almost entirely gone, according to the Verge.
Other areas that have been heavily impacted, the Verge reported, include product trust and safety, policy, research and social good.

What were these teams actually doing?

The human rights team leader gave some hints:

Shannon Raj Singh @ShannonRSingh – 17:58 UTC · Nov 4, 2022Yesterday was my last day at Twitter: the entire Human Rights team has been cut from the company.
I am enormously proud of the work we did to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights, to protect those at-risk in global conflicts & crises including Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Ukraine, and to defend the needs of those particularly at risk of human rights abuse by virtue of their social media presence, such as journalists & human rights defenders.

The human rights team was the ‘regime change’ force on Twitter. It intervened in conflicts where the U.S. preferred a certain side.

Jerri @JerusWorld – 20:42 UTC · Nov 4, 2022
Replying to @ShannonRSingh

So you are the one that was censoring pro-Ethiopian and Eritrean voices in order to help the rebel group from Tigray. May Karma pay you back for thousands of lives perished in US/West proxy war.

Shannon Raj Singh had previously meddled in Afghan and other countries’ cultures:

Shannon Raj Singh is a Legal Counsel for SAHR, advising a Kabul-based team on sexual violence litigation in Afghanistan, which aims to end the invasive and discriminatory practice of female virginity testing.She is an international criminal law attorney focused on victim-centered responses to mass atrocities. Currently based in The Hague, she has experience working with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and a number of human rights NGOs in sub-Saharan Africa. She has also practiced as a litigator in the United States, appearing in both state and federal courts and assisting with overseas corruption investigations under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The machine learning ethics, transparency and accountability team was also fired. Machine learning, also glorified as ‘artificial intelligence’, is essentially an (often lousy) pattern recognition system. It can be trained with categorized data and, after that, can categorized other data it gets presented. All one needs to know about its ethics, transparency and accountability is is the old IT wisdom ‘garbage in garbage out’. If one trains the system with faulty categorized data it will fail to correctly categorize data. It does not need an extra team to learn that.

I do not know what the ‘Internet technology team’ was doing but the function obviously still exists. It was merely downsized.

The accessibly experience engineering team included at least five members. There task was to modify the Twitter app so it could be used better by people with disabilities. I find it weird that Twitter had a whole team for that. To teach designers to use colors that can be differentiated by color blind people takes about 90 minutes max. All other accessibility issues I can think of (fontsize, button size etc.) are an issue for the device and operation system, not for an application like Twitter that runs on top of those. Besides that, how big is the market of people with disabilities for a company like Twitter?

The ‘curation team’ ran the Twitter moments feature. It allows for blog posts about specific tweets. The feature never took off. I know of no one who has ever used it.

Many journalists are hostile to Musk’s takeover of their favorite hang out. The communications department was there to talk to the press. Why bother?

And the other functions? Product trust and safety, policy, research and social good? What were they actually doing? How has the ‘social good’ team helped the company to be successful?

The Washington Post laments that Twitter fired some people who were doing ‘election information’:

The mass layoffs Friday gutted teams devoted to combating election misinformation, adding context to misleading tweets and communicating with journalists, public officials and campaign staff.The layoffs included a number of people who were scheduled to be on call this weekend and early next week to monitor for signs of foreign disinformation, spam and other problematic content around the election, one former employee told The Washington Post.

‘Foreign meddling’ is certainly an issue in U.S. elections as foreign money funneled through lobbyists can influence the votes. But ‘foreign meddling’ on social media is simply a myth promoted by Democrats as part of their great ‘Russiagate’ fake.

Twitter’s downfall into a ‘regime change’ outlet came in 2009 when it moved a maintenance window to help U.S. ‘regime change’ efforts in Iran:

The Obama administration says it has tried to avoid words or deeds that could be portrayed as American meddling in Iran’s presidential election and its tumultuous aftermath.Yet on Monday afternoon, a 27-year-old State Department official, Jared Cohen, e-mailed the social-networking site Twitter with an unusual request: delay scheduled maintenance of its global network, which would have cut off service while Iranians were using Twitter to swap information and inform the outside world about the mushrooming protests around Tehran.

The request, made to a Twitter co-founder, Jack Dorsey, is yet another new-media milestone: the recognition by the United States government that an Internet blogging service that did not exist four years ago has the potential to change history in an ancient Islamic country.

Twitter complied with the request, saying in a blog post on Monday that it put off the upgrade until late Tuesday afternoon — 1:30 a.m. Wednesday in Tehran — because its partners recognized “the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran.”

That was an expensive mistake. Shortly thereafter Twitter lost access to the Iranian market.

Back to ‘regime change’ assistant Shannon Raj Singh:

chinahand @chinahand – 18:55 UTC · Nov 4, 2022
Quoting @ShannonRSingh

Somebody should publish the pre Elon org chart. Judging by this twitter walked talked and quacked like an NGO which made it subject to banning in half the world

Twitter had become a ‘woke’ company that was mostly in the hands of the Democratic Party. By being ‘woke’ and by supporting ‘regime change’ efforts Twitter killed its own access to at least half of its potential market.

It Musk manages to make it a more neutral service, nationally and internationally, while keeping its original function alive, I am all for it.

Unfortunately that is unlikely to happen.

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.

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