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The Technology 202

A newsletter briefing on the intersection of technology and politics.

Lawmakers want to know Musk’s plan to fight misinformation in Spanish

The Technology 202

A newsletter briefing on the intersection of technology and politics.

Happy Turkey Day Eve! A quick programming note: The newsletter will be off until Monday for Brazil’s World Cup opener — I mean, for Thanksgiving. Happy holiday!

Below: Major marketers have stopped Twitter advertising, and a U.K. regulator opens an investigation into two major tech companies. First: 

Lawmakers want to know Musk’s plan to fight misinformation in Spanish

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are demanding that Elon Musk spell out his plan to combat Spanish-language misinformation on Twitter, expressing concern that his decision to slash the company’s safety teams could disproportionately harm vulnerable communities. 

In a letter to Musk on Tuesday, they voiced “serious concerns” that the mass layoffs to Twitter’s moderation workforce may have “harmful and long-lasting consequences … especially for Spanish-language and other non-English language users.”

The letter called on Twitter to disclose how many content moderators it currently employs, what languages they are fluent in, what markets they serve and what countries they are based in, and to contrast that with its staffing levels and language capacities before recent cuts. 

Lawmakers also pressed Musk on whether Twitter will still review as much content “in its original language” as before, and how the company planned to make sure its algorithmic moderation is “equally effective across all languages in which the platform operates.”

“All users deserve the same level of protection from harassment, fraud, and illegal activity regardless of the language they speak at home,” they wrote in a letter shared exclusively with The Technology 202. 

Sens. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) led the letter, which was co-signed by five other Democratic lawmakers. 

Twitter, which gutted its communications team, and Musk did not return requests for comment.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has long pressured platforms to disclose how many of their content moderators are proficient in Spanish — to little avail.

Companies have largely responded by providing broad figures of their investments into content moderation, without breaking down the language proficiencies of its workforces. That has frustrated Democratic lawmakers, who say the lack of hard data has left them in the dark. 

It’s unclear exactly how much Musk’s layoffs may have affected the company’s ability to detect violating content in languages other than English. 

But as my colleagues reported, Twitter’s safety team has been shrunk significantly as it pivots to relying more on automated moderation. That could hamper its ability to curb harmful posts in other languages, which can be difficult to detect due to cultural and linguistic complexities. 

Inga Trauthig, a senior research fellow at the University of Texas at Austin who studies Spanish-language misinformation, said she fears a “downward spiral” at Twitter where a crush for resources causes Spanish-language moderation to be underfunded.

“In this competition about a few resources that are dealing with trust and safety issues … non-English language disinformation is going to be sidelined even more,” she said.

Trauthig said Twitter is just one piece in the digital ecosystem where Spanish-language misinformation spreads, and like other companies has “always been lagging behind” in policing that content. But she said it can at times take on an outside role as a more public-facing site. 

The letter marks the latest area where Democratic lawmakers are turning up the heat on Musk, who has bristled at congressional oversight in the past. 

  • A group of Senate Democrats last week urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Twitter had violated a privacy pact with the agency through rapid product changes announced after Musk’s takeover.
  • Two House Democrats last week called on Musk to commit to keeping Twitter data open to outside researchers, citing concerns that he could retaliate against those digging into his impact on the platform after taking it over, as we reported.
  • Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) earlier this month pressed Musk about the wave of accounts impersonating brands and public officials that swept the platform after he closed his deal to buy it, a line of questioning Musk bluntly rejected.
  • Democratic lawmakers have also voiced concern about the national security and labor rights implications of Musk’s tumultuous Twitter takeover.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are seeking answers by Dec. 6.

Our top tabs

Some of Twitter’s major marketers pause advertising

Dozens of the platform’s top 100 advertisers — including 14 of its top 50 — have stopped advertising in recent weeks, Naomi Nix and Jeremy B. Merrill report. It indicates that advertisers are nervous about changes to the platform in the wake of Elon Musk’s acquisition.

“Marketers are reevaluating Twitter during a moment of chaos as Musk makes dramatic changes to both the staff and the platform,” my colleagues write. Musk has slashed a significant chunk of Twitter’s workforce and hundreds of employees have quit, “including many involved in making sure the site was free from content that advertisers would prefer to not be associated with,” they write. “In the hours after Musk took over, Twitter experienced an influx of racist and antisemitic posts that tested the boundaries of Twitter’s rules under a new owner who for months had signaled he would ease many of Twitter’s content moderation practices,” they write.

Twitter is also under pressure from regulators around the world. Roch-Olivier Maistre, the president of digital French regulator Arcom, said in a Friday letter that the company’s turmoil “raises systemic issues regarding the faithfulness of democratic debate and the public safety,” my colleague Annabelle Timsit reports. Maistre gave Twitter until Thursday to respond. The company didn’t respond to a request for comment on the letter.

U.K. regulator opens investigation into Apple, Google mobile dominance

U.K. Competition and Markets Authority’s investigation comes after the regulator found that Apple and Google mobile browsers accounted for 97 percent of U.K. mobile internet browsing last year, Politico Europe’s Samuel Stolton reports. The investigation has to end within 18 months and regulators could decide to impose remedies or propose legislation to lawmakers.

“Many UK businesses and web developers tell us they feel that they are being held back by restrictions set by Apple and Google,” interim CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell said. “We plan to investigate whether the concerns we have heard are justified and, if so, identify steps to improve competition.”

Apple told Politico that it would “continue to engage constructively with the Competition and Markets Authority to explain how our approach promotes competition and choice.” Google didn’t respond to the outlet’s request for comment.

Investors agree to delay key deadline for Trump merger

The vote has averted the potential liquidation of Digital World Acquisition, which wants to merge with former president Donald Trump’s Trump Media & Technology Group, Julian Mark reports. Social network Truth Social is the main product of Trump Media, which has been rocked by infighting.

The vote had been delayed for months. It needed 65 percent approval by shareholders to avoid liquidation. It comes as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority investigate Digital World over potential violations of securities laws in its negotiations with Trump. 

Inside the industry

Meta told to overhaul content removal policy after Instagram drill music case (Financial Times)

As Elon Musk cuts costs at Twitter, some bills are going unpaid (New York Times)

Agency scanner

Meta confirms U.S. military involvement in sprawling phony social media operation (CyberScoop)

Hill happenings

Google urged by U.S. lawmakers to fix misleading abortion ads (Bloomberg News)

U.S. senators ask Fidelity to reconsider bitcoin 401(k) offerings following FTX collapse (CoinDesk)

Workforce report

HP laying off 4,000-6,000 employees globally over the next three years (CNBC)

Trending

Here’s what Twitter king Dril thinks of Musk’s chaotic reign (Taylor Lorenz)

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