Twitter on Monday disbanded its “Trust and Safety Council,” a group of volunteers who offered the company outside expert advice on online safety, according to an email seen by NBC News.
“As Twitter moves into a new phase, we are reevaluating how best to bring external insights into our product and policy development work,” the company said in the email. “As part of this process, we have decided that the Trust and Safety Council is not the best structure to do this.”
Alex Holmes, who had been a member of the council, tweeted that the email came after the company canceled a meeting with the council.
“The way this has unfolded and way members have been treated is unfortunate and unacceptable,” Holmes, an advisory board member of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and deputy CEO of the nonprofit group The Diana Award, posted.
Holmes added: “Over past week several members of council have had their personal safety and well-being impacted by the actions of Twitter staff.”
The disbanding of the council comes as Elon Musk, the new CEO of Twitter, continues to shape the company toward what he has called his “free speech absolutist” ideals, which has included restoring the accounts of white nationalists and QAnon adherents. Musk has addressed concerns about abuse and misinformation flourishing on the platform by saying that the company will embrace “freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.”
More recently, he has used his Twitter feed to more publicly embrace various far-right talking points, including attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci while also mocking the use of gender pronouns.
The link to the webpage for the council returned an error Monday night, but an archived version of the page said that the council “is made up of several advisory groups, each dedicated to issues critical to the health of the public conversation. Areas of focus included Online Safety and Harassment, Human and Digital Rights, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health, Child Sexual Exploitation, and Dehumanization” and included groups such as the Anti-Defamation League, GLAAD and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
Some members of the council recently sparked an argument over the company’s handling of child sexual exploitation material.
A few members of the council resigned last week, stating, “A Twitter ruled by diktat is not a place for us.”
Anne Collier, founder and executive director of the nonprofit The Net Safety Collaborative, announced her resignation and those of two other council members in a tweet, to which right-wing activist Jack Posobiec responded that the council “belong in jail” due to the company’s past handling of child sexual abuse material (the council advised on the topic but had no power to take action).
Musk responded to Posobiec: “It is a crime that they refused to take action on child exploitation for years!”
Jack Dorsey, the former CEO of Twitter, responded: “this is false.”