Melissa Ingle, a former data scientist for Twitter who was fired by Elon Musk, expresses and explains the downside of mass layoffs and her concerns about the platform’s future without moderation.
On the steep and colorful streets of San Francisco Heights, Melissa Ingle welcomes guests to her family home. In the living room, on this cloudy start to December, sits a freshly decorated tree. “It’s almost Christmas and it’s quite stressful,” she worries Tech&Co. He has not received a severance pay or salary for a month.
Like many others, he is a part of it a wave of massive layoffs In November, it was managed by the new head of Twitter, Elon Musk. However, she continues, glancing at a photo of her children on the shelf, saying that she wants to spend the end of the year holidays “happy with her two children”.
Melissa Ingle started working at Twitter in September 2021. A data scientist specializes content moderation and especially in political disinformation, its role was to review any terms that would violate the platform’s rules. Not just in the US, but all over the world. Like more than half of former Twitter employees, he was fired without first being thanked. In his case, as a contractual subcontractor, he did not have the benefits of other workers’ comp coverage.
Sitting at the coffee table, Melissa Ingle tries to give full answers and doesn’t shy away from discussing her personal situation. Between each of his answers, he takes a deep breath to try to calm the stress. He remembers with excitement the day he found out he was fired. To be precise, it was November 12. “It was the week of the midterm elections in the United States and I was working on political disinformation, so I was very concerned about these issues and I had no clue what to do.”
And to continue: “I was at the mall with my daughter and my friend. I received a notification on my phone: my professional login was deleted, I could not connect to my mailbox or the Slack platform. I was devastated.”
Then several questions arise. Living in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities, without a job? “I was wondering if I could continue to work and live here,” she said.
Then there is no news from Twitter management for a week. It sends internal queries to find out why its access was blocked. But his pleas went unanswered. “I didn’t know what was going to happen, there was no clear communication. The management is completely unstable, there has been no collective bargaining, all these firings are based on one person,” he continues, without naming Elon Musk.
A few days later, on November 16, a new boss send an email to all employees. The message is simple: work hard for Twitter or leave. They give them 24 hours to make a decision or access will be closed. “In the United States, especially in the technology sector, employees sign a non-disclosure agreement that prevents them from publicly defaming the company. In my turn, I did not sign the contract related to this dismissal.”
This is the reason for the increase in interviews with the American press since his departure. “People need to know how moderation works,” Melissa Ingle said. the rise of hateful content and racists for a month. Statements supported by research Center Against Digital Hate. He also points to the lack of engineers specializing in moderation, despite Elon Musk The board of trustees was dissolved on December 12 and security, an organization that brings together a hundred independent researchers and human rights activists.
“Very interesting to see Twitter hint at moderation policy in early April and Musk’s acquisition announcements.” Indeed, the billionaire considers himself an “absolute defender of free speech,” even to the extent of hate speech, as evidenced by the reinstatement of previously banned accounts such as Donald Trump’s.
“We believe in this platform”
“Obviously, freedom of expression is essential,” insists Melissa Ingle. “But you can’t have a free platform without moderation. Our team spent a lot of time fixing these issues.” On the day of the appointment, she said she was “scared,” but that didn’t stop her. “Because we believe in this platform,” said a former employee.
Before his arrival, Elon Musk tweeted several times to criticize Twitter’s moderation policy. However, his new leadership has caused controversy Twitter Files.
That’s why Melissa Ingle worries about the future of the social network. “I’m tweeting more than usual to raise awareness of the situation. Unmoderated platforms are similar to right-wing sites like 4Chan or Gab. However, he believes that Twitter is not “in a dead end”: “Thanks to networks, voices have been heard through Metoo or Black Lives Matter.”
An ex-employee is currently looking for a job and connecting with fellow data scientists. “It’s important to keep in touch. We help each other and share job ads in a WhatsApp group of about thirty people.” Some of them still work on Twitter. “They are afraid to speak up when they see what happens to those who speak negatively about their new boss in public. They are afraid of being fired or losing their severance pay,” he said.
A bad tweet with Elon Musk can be fatal. Eric Frohnhoefer worked at Twitter android operating system and dared to defy his new boss. Elon Musk fired him in a post that simply said he was “fired” (since deleted).