Billionaire Elon Musk has hit back at the BBC after the corporation, having interviewed dozens of former Twitter employees, claimed the social media site had become more susceptible to disinformation, trolling and child sexual exploitation. The Tesla creator, who purchased Twitter on October 27 2022 for £37 billion, mocked the BBC for complaining about “trolls” and suggested the Panorama documentary and a coinciding article on its website that details Twitter’s issues was written by a company “calling itself” the British corporation.
In a message posted to the site, the entrepreneur apologised “for turning Twitter from nurturing paradise into a place that has … trolls”.
Beneath his initial message, he said: “(real article from an organisation calling itself BBC).”
He also responded to a user who said that prior to Mr Musk’s takeover of the platform no one had ever said anything mean to them.
“It was a beautiful Utopia. Now I fear for my life daily,” the user said.
In response Mr Musk wrote: “Literally roflmao” – short for rolling on the floor laughing my a** off.
His messages were in response to a BBC Panorama documentary and article which said after interviewing “current and former employees” of Twitter, as well as platform user, the social media site had become rife with improper safety controls.
The BBC article suggested its findings, bolstered by academic data, had shown that “child sexual exploitation is on the rise on Twitter”, that “targeted harassment campaigns” were going “undetected” more frequently than prior to Mr Musk’s takeover, that “misogynistic online hate” had increased significantly and rape survivors were also being targeted.
The BBC report cited figures from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue think tank, which showed that tens of thousands of new accounts have popped up and immediately followed known abusive and misogynistic profiles since Mr Musk took over.
The figures were 69 percent higher than before he was in charge, suggesting a “permissive environment”, the report claimed.
The BBC cited Lisa Jennings Young, a former head of content design at Twitter, who said before the takeover the platform was trying to crack down on trolling, which was widespread on Twitter.
“It was not at all perfect. But we were trying, and we were making things better all the time,” she said.
Ray Serrato, a former Twitter worker who tackled state-sponsored disinformation, said the team he used to work for had been “decimated” and only has minimised capacity today.
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He said: “Twitter might have been the refuge where journalists would go out and have their voice be heard and be critical of the government.
“But I’m not sure that’s going to be the case anymore.”
“There are a number of key experts that are no longer in that team that would have covered special regions, or threat actors, from Russia to China.”
Another anonymous source told the BBC that the drain of expertise from Twitter said that the team of 20 people who used to work on tackling child sexual exploitation had been cut to just six or seven.
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