What This Transgender Ex-Twitter Employee Says About Elon Musk

by Emell Adolphus

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday December 5, 2022

Melissa Ingle
Melissa Ingle  (Source:Twitter)

Transgender woman Melissa Ingle is out of a job at Twitter, but she is much more concerned with the future of the app under Musk's leadership.

As reported by the Advocate, Ingle was laid off along with 4,400 contract staff under the bird app when Musk began to take control of the social media platform. Her job centered on analysis and she wrote many of the machine learning algorithms to prevent the spread of disinformation. 

"I would help to write the machine learning algorithms and monitor any kind of report on these algorithms that that scroll through Twitter for tweets that violated our terms of service specifically as it involves political misinformation in the [target] country," Ingle said. "We monitored Brazilian elections, Japanese elections, the E.U., the U.K., Argentina, Mexico. Anywhere we had a substantial presence."

As one could imagine, the content moderation teams dealt with deep levels of disinformation and hate speech — what Ingle calls the "health of Twitter."

"And this is not anyone's personal health. This is the health of the platform, So that's making the platform a non-toxic environment that people want to spend time on and that the advertisers felt comfortable with associating brands," she says. "This was, of course, coupled with the human review team, where they're going through the tweets sort of mechanically, hand by hand, and looking to see if things [existed] that violated our terms of service."

But then the health of Twitter was laid off "seemingly at random," she said. Then the bulk of contractors, including her, were also laid off. She was not offered severance pay or financial incentive.

Since Musk came on board, the amount of abuse on the platform has been on the rise.

"We've seen a really sharp increase in abuse. And this can be measured," she says. "Before I left, they reported that we were seeing a 50 percent increase in abuse day over day, from the time before Musk purchased [Twitter] to the time when Musk bought it."

In short, there are no people driving the platform's moral compass.

"There's no more contractors to monitor things, to catch things. And on the other hand, on the machine learning side, only 15 of us initially left. And then the other contractor and I were laid off, leaving 13, and then [on November 17], at least three people walked out in response to Musk's letter demanding they work extremely hardcore hours," Ingel said.

Before Musk purchased the company, "he was seeing some things that were extremely disparaging towards content moderation," she explained. "So he felt he didn't trust us."

She added, "And this really didn't instill a lot of trust in us." And LGBTQ+ employees didn't have a lot of trust in Musk to protect them. Since Musk took over Twitter in a chaotic fashion, a defeated feeling tore through the staff and no one knew what they should be working on.

"So I just kept doing what I had been doing, in the hope that I could keep this place relatively free of misinformation," she said.

But Musk has been a catalyst of misinformation himself, tweeting several homophobic conspiracy theories about Nancy Pelosi's husband.

"Elon Musk has tweeted out quite a few homophobic and transphobic memes, including most recently, the attack on Paul Pelosi," Ingel explained. "I mean, it's absolutely ridiculous and only serves one purpose, which is to incite homophobia. That's the sole purpose of that."

After Musk's tweets, the staff challenged him to explain how he would protect his LGBTQ+ employees.

"And he just gave this kind of stock answer, 'Oh, we're committed to diversity and, you know, honoring all employees,' without really specifically trying to address what he or his followers have been doing," she said.

As much as Twitter can be a toxic place, Ingel said that she had come to build her own safe community on the platform.

She adds, "It's just incredibly sad that it might be going away."