Exclusive-Twitter reshuffles ‘health’ team amid spam bot debate

By Thomson Reuters Aug 23, 2022 | 5:01 PM

By Sheila Dang

(Reuters) – Twitter Inc is combining teams that work on reducing toxic content and spam bots, according to a staff memo on Tuesday seen by Reuters, amid accusations from a former executive that the company failed to do either job well.

The social media company will combine its health experience team, which works on reducing misinformation and harmful content, with the Twitter service team, which is responsible for reviewing profiles that users report and taking down spam accounts, into a new group called “Health Products and Services (HPS),” according to the email to employees.

The new group will be led by Ella Irwin, vice president of product for health and Twitter service, who joined the company in June.

“We need teams to focus on specific problems, working together as one team and no longer operating in silos,” Irwin wrote in the email to staff, adding the team will “ruthlessly prioritize” its projects.

The creation of the HPS team takes on greater significance as the company is challenged on multiple fronts. A former security chief and well-regarded hacker, Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, has accused the company of misleading federal regulators about its defenses against hackers and spam accounts.

It is battling Tesla Inc’s chief executive, Elon Musk, in court as the world’s richest man attempts to walk away from a $44 billion deal to buy the company, accusing Twitter of withholding information on how it calculates spam accounts.

Twitter on Tuesday said Zatko’s allegations were aimed at capturing attention and inflicting harm on the company, and it has said it stands by its disclosures on spam and bot accounts.

Twitter is also preparing to fortify its defenses against the spread of misinformation ahead of the November U.S. midterm elections.

The reorganization of the toxic content and spam teams “reflects our continued commitment to prioritize, and focus our teams in pursuit of our goals,” a Twitter spokesperson said on Tuesday.

The move also comes as employees have left Twitter amid the months-long chaos with Musk. High-ranking executives including Kayvon Beykpour and Bruce Falck, who oversaw consumer product and revenue, have departed the company in recent months.

Teams responsible for reducing harmful or toxic content have been hit hard by staff departures recently, according to two employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

At least one employee said the reorganization did not appear to have a significant impact on their work.

(Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas; Editing by Kenneth Li and Matthew Lewis)