The ongoing fallout from Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter
How the changes at Twitter are playing out around the world
We hope you’re staying safe and healthy.
This week, we're looking at the fallout from Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter, which has played out in different ways around the world. The most visible impact is on content moderation, with questions arising from statements Mr Musk has made on previous actions taken on the platform to limit access to certain individuals and organizations.
African journalists have relied on Twitter to connect with sources and to evade censorship by authoritarian governments, but new policies allowing for paid verification have opened up the possibility of impersonation, and the dismissal of Twitter's Africa team in the last round of layoffs puts the company's commitment to the continent in question.
In Brazil, more than 1 million users joined the Indian microblogging app Koo, that similiar to other plataforms has a problematic history of content moderation. Some are attributing the popularity of the platform to the fact that 'Koo' is a Portuguese homonym for 'ass'.
In this newsletter, you'll also find insights from Meedan's Kat Ho and Darius Kazemi on the impacts of Musk's Twitter takeover, focusing on content moderation and the growing popularity of decentralized social media for in the US.
We also look at revelations that the US military deployed a coordinated online influence operation to promote US interests online, and revelations that Alphabet's Google illegally tracked users' location without their consent, even after they had opted out of location tracking.
Meedan is hosting a Twitter Space on December 10, Human Rights Day, to discuss gendered health misinformation. Find out more and RSVP here.
Also, take a look at the Townsquare section where we share opportunities and events.
If there are updates you would like us to share from your country or region, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What does Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter mean for content moderation on the platform?
Following his acquisition of the company in October, there is uncertainty about the next steps that Musk will take to manage Twitter’s content policies and moderation operations. Public knowledge of his plans are limited, and information from inside the company is changing quickly as the new CEO takes on his tenure over the social media giant. Here’s what we know so far about Elon Musk’s Twitter and what it means for misinformation and hate on the platform.
The Check Global Report
By Meedan’s Check Global team in Beirut, Belo Horizonte, Kochi, Bhimtal, and Nairobi
How Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover may impact the work of African journalists (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism)
Journalists and media workers in Africa are raising concerns about the potential risks and challenges Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter could pose to their work. Critics have pointed out that malicious actors can now gain the perception of credibility following the introduction of a paid verification system, and the public discourse that previously existed on Twitter is likely to be lost amid growing privacy issues, misinformation and impersonation.
“Twitter is becoming a weapon. A tweet can start a war. There is a serious privacy issue and no guarantee of anonymity. This is a big concern for me as a journalist because we use the platform to reach our sources, especially those who want to remain anonymous” — Victor Ejechi, Nigerian journalist and data analyst
Fake Facebook and Instagram accounts promoting US interests had ties to US military, Meta says (CNN Politics)
People “associated with the US military” were likely behind a network of phony Facebook and Instagram accounts that promoted US interests abroad by targeting audiences in Central Asia and the Middle East. It’s a rare case of a US tech giant tying a coordinated online influence operation to Washington rather than a foreign government.
"We found this activity as part of our internal investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior in the region. We’ve shared information about this network with independent researchers at Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory" - Meta's adversarial threat report Q3
Twitter drama has Brazilians flocking to Indian platform Koo (Rest of World)
Following mass resignations from Twitter and fears that the platform would collapse, users from all over the world to start looking for alternative social media platforms. In Brazil, many jumped to Koo, an Indian social media app, with close to a million joining the platform and at least 500,000 users downloading the app over a three day period.
"Twitter has a large history of being a cornerstone of digital communication for a large group of Brazilian users. That won’t go away in a blink of an eye. Koo could turn out to be a safety measure for Brazilians that fear that Twitter might either shut down or change dramatically the way it operates. Ironically, this safety measure might end up not being entirely safe considering that little is known by Brazilians about how reliable Koo actually is" — Carlos Affonso Souza, director of the Rio de Janeiro Institute for Technology and Society
Alphabet's Google will pay $391.5 million to settle allegations by 40 states that the search and advertising giant illegally tracked users' locations. In addition to the payment, Google has been directed to be more transparent with consumers about when location tracking is occurring and give users detailed information about location-tracking data on a special web page.
"When consumers make the decision to not share location data on their devices, they should be able to trust that a company will no longer track their every move. This settlement makes it clear that companies must be transparent in how they track customers and abide by state and federal privacy laws" — Tom Miller, Iowa Attorney General
Users are moving to the decentralized web after Musk’s Twitter takeover. Here’s what that means for verification
With Elon Musk’s recent purchase and takeover of Twitter, changes at the company have left researchers with concerns and wavering trust in Twitter’s ability to retain content integrity. This new lack of trust is causing users, particularly journalists, to move in large numbers to “the Fediverse," a decentralized social media network that supports networks like Mastodon, an open source software with social media features.
The big takeaway: Lack of verification poses a serious problem for misinformation spread on these sites, and the problem will only grow as more people join decentralized spaces. This identity and integrity problem can’t be solved without a multi-stakeholder collaboration. There needs to be concerted work on a standardized verification system built on top of our main source of verification on the present-day internet: the domain name system.
Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) 15th Forum: This year’s ARIJ annual forum will be held on December 2-4, 2022, under the theme “Defending Independent Media”, and will focus on achieving more accountability, and promoting people’s right to access verified information wherever they are. You can find more information here.
DECEMBER 7 – 8
Meedan will host a Twitter Spaces conversation event on Human Rights Day, December 10, to discuss key findings from a report focusing on gendered health misinformation claims. The discussion will be led by Meedan’s Eric Mugendi, Program Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa and joined by Jenna Sherman, Program Manager of Meedan’ Digital Health Lab and author of the report, Celine Samson, a reporter and editor at VeraFiles in the Philippines, and Phillip Ayazika, program manager at Pollicy in Uganda. Find out more and RSVP here.
Funding opportunity for Women Human Rights Defenders: Are you a woman human rights defender? Are you working in a conflict or crisis-affected environment? Apply for the wphfund Safety Net funding.
What else we’re reading
Sticking with the Twitter theme, the platform has stopped enforcing its Covid-19 misinformation policy after several top executives overseeing content moderation policies and enforcement left the company. (Politico)
Honorary consuls are meant to foster ties between countries. However, this investigation has found that the system has been abused by corrupt, violent and dangerous appointees, some of whom exploit their status for personal gain. (ICIJ)
There is rising concern over crimes against the press in Mexico, where 17 professionals were killed this year, making it the deadliest country for journalists in the world.
The 2022 Latin American Conference on Investigative Journalism (COLPIN) has just ended. Here are some of the prize-winning investigative stories featured at the conference. (Global Investigative Journalism Network)
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