UN urges Elon Musk to ensure Twitter respects human rights
New boss sacks half of social media platform’s staff
Published: Nov 06, 2022 10:10 PM
UN rights chief Volker Turk on Saturday urged Twitter's new owner Elon Musk to make respect for human rights central to the social network after he sacked around half the company's employees.

Reports of Musk laying off the platform's entire human rights team were "not, from my perspective, an encouraging start," Turk said in an open letter.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said he was writing with "concern and apprehension about our digital public square and Twitter's role in it."

He warned against propagating hate speech and misinformation and highlighted the need to protect user privacy.

Musk, the richest person in the world, took control of the platform a week ago in a contentious deal.

After completing his mammoth $44 billion acquisition, Musk quickly set about dissolving Twitter's board and sacking its chief executive and top managers. Twitter on Friday fired roughly half of its 7,500-strong workforce.

"Like all companies, Twitter needs to understand the harms associated with its platform and take steps to address them," wrote Turk. 

"Respect for our shared human rights should set the guardrails for the platform's use and evolution. In short, I urge you to ensure human rights are central to the management of Twitter under your leadership."

Turk posted the open letter on Twitter, where he has more than 25,000 followers.

Turk, an Austrian longtime UN official who took up his post as the UN rights chief on October 17, spelt out some ­fundamental human rights principles, urging Musk to put them at the heart of Twitter's management going forward.

"Twitter has a responsibility to avoid amplifying content that results in harms to people's rights," Turk said.

"There is no place for hatred that incites discrimination, hostility or violence on Twitter.

"Hate speech has spread like wildfire on social media... with horrific, life-threatening consequences."

Twitter should therefore continue to bar such hatred on the platform, while every effort should be made to remove such content promptly, said Turk.

Twitter on Saturday updated its app in Apple's App Store to begin charging $8 for sought-after blue check verification marks.

The billionaire entrepreneur and CEO of electric car maker Tesla has vowed to start charging users more.

In an update to Apple iOS devices, Twitter said those who "sign up now" for $7.99 a month can receive the blue checkmark next to their user names, "just like the celebrities, companies and politicians you already follow."

Before Musk took over, blue check marks next to a person's user name meant Twitter confirmed the account belonged to the person or company claiming it.