Twitter's New Visibility Labels Preach 'Transparency,' But Don't Quell Brand-Safety Fears

Under Elon Musk’s gaze, brand safety on Twitter is at worst horrible and at best unpredictable.

Especially as the microblogging platform moves forward with Musk’s mission of transparency and he refers to  “freedom of speech,” which, thus far, has resulted in looping NPR in with propagandist new outlets (via “state-affiliated,” then “government-funded” labels) and the reinstatement of banned accounts like those of Andrew Tate and a gaggle of Nazis.

Let me be honest: attempting to show users how and where media outlets get their funding isn’t the worst idea. Readers should be able to make their own educated decision about how capitalism may affect their news. But that’s only if Twitter labels were somehow created and given in a way that wasn’t fully erratic, untrue, and/or misleading to readers.

Musk’s new Twitter 2.0 “transparency” efforts seem just as backwards. On Tuesday, Twitter announced a new set of tweet-level alerts that restrict the visibility of tweets deemed potentially offensive or that violate Twitter’s rules.

“We believe Twitter users have the right to express their opinions and ideas without fear of censorship,” reads a recent statement. “We also believe it is our responsibility to keep users on our platform safe from content violating our Rules.”

Tweets that violate Twitter’s rules alert users that the staff (at least the 20% that remains after Musk’s initial purge) has reduced the tweet’s reach and impact and will not place ads adjacent to content labeled as such.

For now, the visibility alerts only apply to tweets that violate Twitter’s Hateful Conduct policy, though the platform plans on expanding the alerts “to other applicable policy areas in coming months.”

Twitter claims this allows the platform to “move beyond the binary ‘leave up versus take down’ approach to content moderation.” But when we think of Musk’s decision to reinstate 10 known Nazi accounts earlier this year, it seems visibility alerts won’t solve much for targeted harassment, as those offensive tweets, while labeled, will remain on the platform.

While ad partners may be happy to have a higher chance of avoiding placement alongside offensive content, the move also begs the question of ad revenue. If Musk continues to let harmful users frolic on the platform, which may mean more violating tweets, it could result in more visibility alerts, less ads, and less money.

Furthermore, it’s still debatable how Twitter will draw the lines between content offensive enough to take down, label with a visibility alert or let spread full-on through the platform’s algorithm. This is where brand safety on Twitter becomes wholly unpredictable.

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