In a joint letter, RSF and CPJ call for major changes to Twitter policies
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have issued a joint call to Twitter to demand changes to its policies that will protect the right to information and uphold press freedom. In a letter to the Twitter executive team, both organisations express their alarm over recent developments under Elon Musk’s direction and outline considerations Twitter can take to regain integrity and uphold the basic human right to information.
Since acquiring Twitter in October 2022, Elon Musk has systematically blown up the admittedly weak safeguards against misinformation under a cloak of what he calls “free speech.” RSF and CPJ have documented a series of actions that contribute to a hostile environment for journalists and threatens media freedom more broadly. These include:
- Dissolving the Trust and Safety Council;
- Laying off the majority of the Twitter team responsible for combating misinformation;
- Abandoning the promise to establish a council charged with evaluating whether to reinstate suspended accounts;
- Arbitrarily reinstating the accounts of nefarious actors, including known spreaders of misinformation;
- Suspending the accounts of several reporters
“These steps outlined in our letter represent the bare minimum steps that Twitter must undertake to show they are serious about restoring the trust they have broken with journalists and the public,” said RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire. “Transparency and democratic safeguards must replace Musk’s capricious, arbitrary decision making.”
Musk’s brief tenure at the top of Twitter has demonstrated that digital platforms are too important and powerful to be left to the whims of a petty and petulant billionaire. Twitter can provide a public good unparalleled by any other digital platform, but without democratic safeguards in place, the site can never be trustworthy.
As such, RSF and CPJ call for the following:
- Twitter should immediately implement transparent corporate policies anchored in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, bringing its policies in line with international human rights standards.
- Twitter’s policies should be crafted and communicated in a transparent manner with input from affected constituencies and implemented consistently, not arbitrarily or based on the company leadership’s personal preferences, perceptions and frustrations.
- Twitter must reinstate the Trust and Safety Council - an advisory group comprised of civil society organizations and experts of which CPJ and RSF are longstanding members.
- Twitter should preserve and update its annual Transparency Report, a valuable tool for public accountability that allows for the monitoring, evaluation and response of attempts to censor information and penalize particular individuals, including many journalists.
The points listed above constitute the absolute minimum steps necessary to reset Twitter’s relationship and credibility with journalists, the media freedom community and the vast majority of users on the platform who cherish factual information, receiving and imparting news
No one wants to be on a social media platform that endangers or censors them. As a critical communication tool in both open and repressive countries Twitter must play a constructive role in ensuring that journalists and the public at large, are able to receive and impart information without fear of reprisals. But the need for transparency online goes beyond Twitter–we must democratize the digital information ecosystem. Musk and Twitter must reverse course before it’s too late.