Elon Musk’s Twitter is not ready for the next natural disaster

Robert Mardini, director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), says that the organization has its own trend analysis department that uses software to monitor Twitter and other online sources in places where it is held. work. For example, it can help keep workers safe in conflict zones.

Of course, you can’t believe everything you read on Twitter. During a crisis, emergency responders using social media must figure out which posts are false or unreliable and when to point out dangerous rumors. This is where Twitter’s own censorship capabilities can be crucial, experts say, and an area of ​​concern as the company downsizes changes. In conflict zones, military campaigns sometimes include online activities that attempt to use the platform for weaponized misconduct.

“Disinformation and misinformation can harm humanitarian organisations,” Mardini said. “When the ICRC or our Red Crescent Movement partners are confronted with false rumors about our work or conduct, it can put the safety of our employees at risk. I am in danger.”

In May, Twitter introduced a special censorship policy for Ukraine to curb misinformation about the conflict with Russia. Nathaniel Raymond, co-leader of the Humanitarian Research Laboratory at Yale’s School of Public Health, says that although Twitter hasn’t made any recent announcements about that policy, he and his team have seen evidence of less consistent execution since Musk took over as CEO and was fired. Many officers work in moderation. “There’s no doubt we’re seeing more bots,” he said. “This is just anecdotal, but it seems that information space has receded.” Musk’s takeover also casts doubt on Twitter’s ability to preserve evidence of potential war crimes posted to the platform. “Before we knew who to talk to to preserve that evidence,” says Raymond. “Now we don’t know what will happen.”

Other emergency responders worry about the impact of Twitter’s new verification plan, which is hold after some users who paid for a verification check used their new status to mimic big brands, including Coca-Cola and pharmaceutical companies Eli Lilly. R. Clayton Wukich, a professor at Cleveland State University who studies how local government is used, says both emergency responders and those on the front lines of disasters need to be able to identify quickly. quickly whether an account is the legitimate Twitter presence of an official organization. social media. “They’re really making life-or-death decisions,” he said.

WIRED asked Twitter if the company’s special censorship policy for Ukraine was still in effect, but received no response because the company recently fired its communications team. A company blog post published Wednesday says that “none of our policies has changed” but that the platform will rely more heavily on automation to moderate abuse. However, automated censorship systems are far from perfect and require ongoing maintenance from human workers to keep up with the changes of issue content over time.

Don’t expect emergency managers to leave Twitter immediately. They are conservatives by nature and are unlikely to give up their best practices overnight. FEMA director of public affairs Jaclyn Rothenberg did not respond to questions about whether they were contemplating changing their approach to Twitter. She just said that “social media plays an important role in the emergency management arena for rapid communication during disasters and will continue for our agency.” But on a practical level, people are already expecting urgent Twitter updates, and it could be dangerous for agencies to abandon the platform.

For those working in emergency management, the upheaval at Twitter has raised bigger questions about the Internet’s role in crisis response. If Twitter becomes unreliable, Are there any other services? serve as a source of entertainment and entertainment, but also reliable information about an ongoing disaster?

“With the absence of this kind of public square, it’s unclear where public communication will go,” said Leysia Palen, a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder who has studied crisis response. . Twitter isn’t perfect and Her research shows The platform’s community has become less effective at amplifying high-quality information naturally. “But it’s better than nothing, and I don’t know if we can say that anymore,” she said.

Some emergency managers are making contingency plans. If Twitter becomes too malicious or contains a lot of spam, they can turn their accounts into a one-way communication tool, simply a way to give instructions instead of gathering information and directly shutting down. the fear of those who are worried. Eventually, they may leave the platform altogether. “This is emergency management,” said Joseph Riser, a public information officer with the Los Angeles Department of Emergency Management. “We always have a plan B.”


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