Elon Musk on solving Twitter’s child sexual abuse material problem

Cc
40 min readDec 11, 2022

I was invited to co-host a Twitter Space and participate in group interview of Elon Musk and Ella Irwin, the new leader of Twitter’s Trust and Safety team.

Also participaing in the panel were Eliza Bleu; a survivor of human trafficking turned advocate, Tara Bull (@TaraBull808); who has hosted Spaces with Elon and provided coverage of the Twitter Files, Amanda Jean; who was supporting Eliza, and Andrea Stroppa, a former contributor to the World Economic Forum, and cyber security researcher focusing on digital communication, and social media.

I was invited because, as a journalist, I had been covering this extensively for Teslarati. Teslarati isn’t the right forum for this article which is why I’m writing it here.

About This Article

Before I dive into the interview, the report, and what Elon and Ella said, I want to share some background for those who may not even be aware of what Elon is doing to protect children on Twitter.

This article will be a long read because I am including several direct quotes from Eliza, Ella, Elon, Andrea, and Tara.

I feel they provide important context and hope this article will be a great resource for future researchers and those who are willing to fight hard against misinformation.

Also, please note that CSAM, CSE are acrynoms for child sexual abuse material and child sexual exploitation.

Background for context

In 2020, I met Eliza Bleu at a Tesla event in Atlanta, where we raised over $10,000 to fight human trafficking. Eliza is a survivor of human trafficking turned advocate. It’s her voice and hard work that led to last night’s group interview with Elon and Twitter’s radical improvements.

Fast forward two years and a good friendship later, Eliza told me that she was worried about Elon Musk buying Twitter. She then informed me of the John Doe 1 and 2 lawsuit and pointed out that if Elon Musk bought Twitter, he would inherit the mess of child sexual exploitation on the app.

John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 are two male minors who begged Twitter to remove videos of their sexual exploitation. Twitter refused to pull down the content. It took pressure from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to convince Twitter to remove the content.

She also said that if he didn’t know about it and Twitter was caught with the material after his purchase, he could go down. The media would be all over this, and his powerful enemies could use it against him.

Andrea’s September report.

In September, Andrea Stroppa’s team, Ghost Data, published a report on child pornography on Twitter that was featured in Reuters. You can view that report here for yourself. It’s damning.

Andrea shared his report with me following its publication in Reuters. The report found that over 500 Twitter accounts openly shared or requested CSAM over a 20-day period in September 2022. Those accounts produced over 10,000 tweets, with almost half of those tweets focused on trading child sexual abuse material. Those accounts accumulated over 2,000 unique followers.

As advertisers began pulling out of Twitter, Eliza called into question their silence on the matter of child sexual exploitation, which has been happening on the platform for many years. Some brands spoke out, but some remained silent — until Elon Musk bought Twitter, and then those remaining silent suddenly had a voice. But that voice was used against Elon, not the leniency of abuse of children.

In an interview with Eliza for Teslarati, Eliza said:

“Where was the outrage, pearl-clutching, and solidarity for the minor survivors sexually exploited on Twitter over the past 10+ years?”

“These brands only care about the world’s most vulnerable when it’s politically advantageous. They only care about the vulnerable populations who buy products, vote, and have money. It’s manipulative and gaslighting.”

“Thank you to the brands who took a stand against Twitter in September over this very real crime. My hope is that under the new leadership, the platform will continue to prioritize the removal of child sexual exploitation, and the brands that left in September can return knowing that specific issue will not negatively impact their brand as well as children around the globe.”

Interviews with Elon Musk and Ella Irwin

Following the release of a new report by Andrea, Tara launched the space, and I, along with Amanda, cohosted. Eliza led. Ella and Andrea joined. With Elon Musk being the CEO of several companies, his joining us in the Twitter Space was a gift and shows his dedication to Twitter’s removal of the illicit material.

In the Twitter Space, we analyzed the new report, and Eliza asked Ella hard questions. I also participated, but I was here solely to support Eliza and document this for today’s article.

Andrea’s updated report.

Andrea’s updated report on Twitter and CSE is a doozy, and I’ve made it into a Google Drive file which you can view here, or you can read on Andrea’s page. Some key takeaways from the report are:

— Ella Irwin and the rest of Twitter’s new Trust and Safety Team focused on Spanish- and Portugeuse-speaking users recently and reducedover 90% of the impact of malicious accounts using specific keywords and hashtags

— The new Trust and Safety team found several accounts that shared CSAM. These included videos of children and teens involved in sexual activities. Over 95% of these accounts were created before Elon Musk bought Twitter.

— Andrea listed several ways Twitter is now taking action. One includes Elon Musk personally receiving continuous updates, and just two days ago, he authorized additional measures to fight child abuse on the platform.

Interview with Ella Irwin

Ella shared a little bit about her role at Twitter with us and told us she had been working at Twitter since June. Eliza asked Ella about former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s claim.

Dorsey responded to Elon Musk, who said it was a crime that Twitter refused to take action on child exploitation for years. Dorsey said, “This is false.”

Ella responded to Dorsey, as did Elon. Ella said:

“I wish this was false, but my experience this year supports this. I fought hard to get funding to replace the people working on his who left in early 2022 and was told no. At one point, there were 0 engineers and very few employees working on CSE and still no funding.”

Eliza asked Ella to expand on that. Ella said:

“I do want to clarify that I’ve been at Twitter since June, and I’ve obviously seen data for this year. I can’t speak to the last five years at Twitter. So certainly, multiple statements could be true here. But what I would say is that when I joined Twitter, I was actually fairly shocked at just how much attrition had happened and without any replacement.”

“No backfill, you know, critical roles, critical teams left without important roles. And so you had a lot of people trying to do the right thing. Of course, I’m here representing many people on the team working tirelessly on these issues.”

“I was shocked to find that there were such gaping holes in some of these really critical areas like, for example, child safety.”

Ella describes a funding & staffing nightmare that led to ads being advertised next to child pornography.

Ella explained that it was hard for her to get Twitter to fund the staffing of the team and that she’d never seen a company act this way for something this important.

Eliza asked Ella to share just how difficult this was, noting that the survivors on this platform deserve to know. Ella replied:

“We weren’t asking for something crazy. We weren’t asking for hundreds of people. We were asking for a very small number of folks that were needed to do the work.”

“The constant response was, ‘Well, you have experienced more attrition where you’ve lost more people so you can get within budget, then we’ll give you the heads you need.’ And it was in spite of several really important issues that had come up, like the brand safety incident that we had, I think it was in August if I remember correctly, where we were serving ads against some of this content which is terrible. We never ever want to do something like that.”

“We don’t ever want to have it on our platform in the first place and we certainly don’t want to have ads running against it and people seeing it. That’s just doubly bad.”

The report Ella was referencing was Andrea’s report featured in Reuters, which is linked above.

“It was so hard to see something like that happen because the things that allowed something like that to happen were known gaps — things that the team had been fighting for a long time. They needed more engineers to do the actual work required to close those gaps.”

“They had great recommendations on how to detect more of this, but it requires people to do it. You can’t make some of this happen. You can’t put controls in place or some of the automation you need to do this stuff at scale without people.”

“It was very hard on the team to see something like that happen knowing about some of these gaps had existed and just weren’t staffed and addressed.”

Andrea Stroppa also shared his thoughts on the report. Andrea, who is based in Italy, worked tirelessly to get the report out and stayed up past 2 AM his time to join us on the Space last night. I bring this up because his dedication is important — life-saving even.

Andrea thanked Ella for being an amazing leader in her work at Twitter with Jared and the team working to remove CSE material.

“She is doing a miracle because, basically, she got a platform where the old management didn’t do a good job of children’s safety.”

He added that Elon is very open to listening and taking the necessary actions to clean the platform. He pointed out that Ella has been reaching out to people on Twitter when they tweet about problems, especially with reporting. Eliza also mentioned this.

Removing CSE isn’t easy, Andrea explained. He pointed out that removing all of the illegal content is very hard. It’s not as easy as changing the logo or the color of a font. It requires a lot of work, and the team had been working tirelessly at doing this.

Ella explains Twitter 2.0's new role by removing CSE

Eliza pointed out that this update will be continuous and that this is the most transparency Twitter has ever provided regarding the issue of CSE.

“This will be an update that is continuous. This is the most transparency that this platform has with regard to this issue. Period. This is something that needs to be updated frequently or will be updated frequently because this is a new Twitter 2.0.”

Eliza asked Ella what she thought of the future of Twitter pertaining to CSE removal.

After thanking Andrea for the partnership with her team, Ella replied:

“In this space, it’s extremely important, just like in many other areas where you’re dealing with illegal content and trafficking, of course, it’s critical to have really important partnerships with organizations that live and breathe this. And that partnership allows us to move quicker to identify things it would have taken us longer to identify ourselves on the platform.”

“We can do a lot with the information we’re given by organizations. We can go out and then do massive investigations and take down a lot of things. It’s much more effective when that communication channel is there. So I definitely foresee that continuing in terms of how we operate going forward.”

“It’s something I’ve seen Elon push for and introduce more and more, which is, ‘Let’s talk openly to organizations who are focused on these various abuse issues that we deal with and see how that partnership can help us do a better job as a company,’ because we can always improve.”

Ella noted that the partnerships allow Twitter to access information that it wouldn’t have otherwise. She added that she’s super excited about the partnerships Twitter has been establishing.

“I also think that it’s really critical that we’re able to move fast And one thing that has — I think if you talk to anybody at Twitter 2.0 right now — you’ll hear that we are moving faster than I think we’ve ever moved as an organization before. I mean, of course, everybody’s working hard. Certainly, a lot of folks are tired because we’ve been doing a lot of great work.”

“But we’ve been able to do more with less by working smarter, prioritizing the really important things like child safety. So I certainly foresee that going forward, child safety will continue to be a top priority for our team. It’s not something we will ever allow to sort of wither away slowly in terms of staffing and resources because we know it’s a top priority. So we’ll continue to invest in the space.”

“We’ll continue to get better and smarter and put the right controls in place. We want to make sure that bad actors realize that it is completely pointless to come to Twitter to traffick this kind of material because they will be detected and caught and prevented immediately.”

Ella addresses the media reports claiming that Twitter slashed half of its CSE removal team.

The next part of this interview should alarm you. Recent media reports claim that Elon Musk slashed the team that fights child sexual abuse on Twitter.

Ella, who is leading that team, told us a different story — one that the media has strangely been silent on.

“I think maybe the strange thing about reading those reports is that Twitter slashed the child safety team a long time ago. I mean, as I said, when I joined, it was a skeleton crew. And far fewer people than you actually need to do this job effectively. Reading that that happened as a result of Twitter 2.0 is a little strange to read because, you know, as I’ve said, we’ve been fighting to get people for a while.”

She explained that, yes, Twitter lost many people across the platform, which is an unfortunate part of the layoff, but she emphasized the fact that for critical areas like child safety, Twitter absolutely has people working on this.

“We are actually going to be adding people. We’ve already started, actually, but we’re going to be adding people to the team and increasing the number of people. We will have more people working on child safety than we’ve ever had before — at least this year that I can speak to that I’ve seen.”

She added that Twitter’s attitude toward this space was more about not wanting to spend money on this instead of hiring the right people.

“Part of the issue is that it’s actually sort of interesting to me the approach to this space also in terms of how you staff. It was sort of interesting this year instead of saying, you know, this is a really hard job, and it requires a certain skill set and expertise to do this, and you got to go hire the right people to do this type of work.”

“Instead, it was sort of this environment of ‘well, you know, we don’t want to spend money on this. We’ve got a lot of other things that we need to be spending money on or that, you know, we need to save money on, I guess. Maybe we can just pull, you know, Bob from marketing to work on this right now.

This resulted in employees being traumatized and leaving the company.

Eliza said:

“When you see this type of content, and you’re not trained and if you don’t have adequate mental health services there, I mean, just as a survivor advocate, it’s very normal for me to decompress after each shift.”

“That’s very normal for us, so it’s not, and that’s not even necessarily seeing an onslaught of child sexual abuse material all day. So this is very dark. It’s very depraved, and it takes a specific skill set and specific training to handle this.”

Ella explains how the public can support Twitter as it continues to prioritize removing CSE

Eliza asked Ella two questions. One was how could the general public help Twitter and the second was to describe the relationship Twitter has with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NECMEC). Ella replied:

“In terms of the public what I would say is it’s it’s extremely important that people take the time to report this content when they see it. We are not going to catch everything.”

“I wish we could. We will get to the point where we will be extremely good at this — to the point where it will be very hard for anybody to ever post this kind of kind of material on our platform. But as you as you know there are there are billions and billions of conversations taking place and so it’s a hard job.

“And so we need help. If you find the content please do report it. We’ve been looking at how do we make reporting easier as well.”

Ella explained that people have told her recently that they were having difficulty reporting the content or that it seemed to go nowhere.

“I definitely want to know if that’s the case. My team wants to know. We’ve already started fixing things that people have told us have prevented them from getting this information to us faster.”

Eliza pointed out that Ella was right and the team has been working. They even found a glitch and Ella noted that it was the team who found it.

“I am so thankful to them for doing that because they geniunely care about this.”

“In terms of NECMEC, we have been in compliance with reporting. We are required to report this type of material and the people who traffick it obviously right away. And we do our best to do that.”

“The one thing that are looking at is how do we automate some of this so that we can move even faster because sometimes, especially if you’re being targeted with this material, one of the most overwhelming aspects of this work is then having to painstakingly report very manually all of these users and accounts that you’re seeing.”

“I want to make sure that we’re able to move fast enough to get the reports to law enforcement, to these organizations so that they can do what they need to do.”

“I want to make sure that we’re not a bottleneck in that process and so we are looking at how do we do that faster and better. But we have been in compliance with reporting for the things we obviously detect. I think the issue is that we should have been detecting more and doing more but we just didn’t have the resources to do that.”

Tara, the host of the Space, asked a question about the reporting process.

”I’ve noticed that they added child exploitation to that where you can go to reporting within Twitter. Is that new or was that something I just missed before?”

Ella noted that there were some recent changes made to the reporting flow.

“You’re going to see a few other changes as well. They’re testing different features on there but you will see more and more of this option showing up in the different reporting flows. We have actually several. One in the reporting center and on on the tweet.”

Eliza also added that if you see the content, you should also report it through the Cyber Tip Line which you can access here.

Addressing Andrea’s new report and Ella’s thoughts on the report.

During the Space, I read out Andrea’s report, and Eliza interviewed Ella about parts of the report. I also added a question. I think it’s important to share Ella’s responses to the report as she represented Twitter in the Space.

Eliza asked Ella to explain why it was important for Twitter to focus on Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking accounts and and what’s a little bit different from the English-speaking accounts.

“First of all we have a lot more work to do when it comes to detecting this across different languages.

“We get information around what search terms hashtags etcetera are used across different languages we are incorporating that very quickly. And it actually helps to get that information because of course you know as much as we have different language speakers in the company.

“ We don’t know all of the different terms being used and so we’ve actually been able to make significant progress just within the last few weeks through the information we’ve been getting.”

The next part was a significant data point that Eliza asked me to repeat:

“Reduced over 90% the impact of these malicious accounts that used specific keywords and hashtags.”

Eliza asked Ella why this wasn’t being done previously; addng that Ella didn’t have to answer.

“But this is such an easy fix. Why on earth wasn’t that being done by under previous leadership?”

Ella pointed out that it’s actually not always easy, noting that it was very important to staff appropriately for these functions. She pointed out that adding a particular hashtag or blocking one particular search term would be straightforward if it was very obvious.

“But the example I would use recently is a hashtag or term that we received in Spanish. It is a hashtag or a search term that is being used quite often by people who traffick this material; however it is also a benign term that is used by many people for many other things.

“So we have to be careful any time we do thinks like this that don’t just basically blow ourselves up in terms of our detection mechanisms by putting in something that’s a benign term and suddenly we have too many false positives we can’t actually take care of the things that matter.”

“There’s a lot of analysis and a lot of work that’s done before we make changes like this to ensure that it’s the right thing to do and to figure out creative solutions if for example it is a benign term because of course that is oftentimes a tactic specifically to make it hard to detect.”

“There’s a lot of work done to figure out ‘OK well how do we adjust our models? How do we then look for specific risk signals in addition to those terms?’ Like, it can be extremely difficult but it takes people to do all of that work.”

Eliza’s next question to Ella was if she thought we would get a clear picture of just how much of this CSAM was reported and not removed as further transparency reports are revealed in the future.

Ella said that Twitter will publish data ahead of those transparency report on this topic.

“So that’s #1. So I think we’ll start to get a better picture of the difference between what was happening before and what’s happening now because there’s a great — I’m super proud of the team and you’ll be able to see what impact they’re having now.”

“In terms of that weren’t actioned, I can tell you we never have an intention even before to ever not work a report. But if there’s a bug such as the one we talked about earlier where sombody would report something and it would go into a black hole and nobody knew, then that would lead to these kind of issues. So that’s not OK.”

“That’s why it’s important for us to fix those things and have people to fix those things quickly. But yes, we’ll continue to report the information we were reporting before in the transparency report and we’re going to provide additional information coming very soon around the work happening right now.”

The next part of the report was critical and Eliza asked me to reread it:

“>95% of these accounts were created before Elon Musk bought Twitter. Some of these accounts have been active for years (even since 2017).”

Eliza asked Ella to explain why there would be CSAM on Twitter for such a long period of time going undetected and why it wasn’t removed. Keep in mind Ella began her work with Twitter in June 2022.

Ella reiterated that she was unable to speak to what was in place before she began working at Twitter.

“What I can say is that if you are not detecting things because you need to improve your detection mechanisms, clearly there’s going to be content out there that you’re just not seeing and you’re missing.”

“Now, there’s also such a thing as sleeper accounts that are created and they’re just not used until they’re needed or they’re not used frequently enough and so that affects things as well.”

“But having said that, there were a lot of opportunities to improve our detection mechanisms.”

She added that as her team has been ramping up their work in this area, they have been able to detect more now than ever before.

Eliza pointed out that Twitter was relying on Microsoft PhotoDNA, a tool that aids organizations in finding and removing known images of child exploitation. She added that Twitter was using this and other proprietary tools and not implementing the free tools available from various sources.

“It’s been heartbreaking to see them be asleep at the wheel about something so life or death.”

I pointed out that it was insane that Twitter wouldn’t utilize the full tools to remove CSAM when I and many others were suspended and shadowbanned with no explantions, no warnings or emails.

The next part of the report we addressed were the 10,000,000 views on that accounts with CSAM material obtained. Eliza asked this was simply off of what Twitter detected; noting she was a little confused about the number.

Andrea Stroppa replied:

“10 million views is the sum of the different videos published by these accounts on Twitter. What it says is that these accounts received a lot of interactions. And these videos have been on Twitter for months — for years.”

Andrea noted that he’d previously worked on this in September (the report mentioned earlier in the article) and that the good news is that Ella and the team are working hard at solving this problem and some of the content mentioned in the earlier report are no longer on the platform.

Andrea added that this had a stressful impact on him and his team because as they removed things from years ago showed that the previous Twitter leadership didn’t work well. Andrea advised all of us to pray for Ella and her team because they have a lot of work to do.

Eliza asked Andrea to explain what he was working on in September. He shared a little bit about his background which included on ounterfeiting digital propaganda bots and even on terrorism. He has helped intelligence agencies in Europe by investigating and reporting data gathered on terrorist groups such as ISIS.

“I got a lot of messages from people. Even from you saying there were issues with this content on Twitter so I started to investigate with my team and you were right. We found a lot of bad stuff.”

Andrea noted that when Elon bought Twitter, Elon said that solving this problem was the priority. He pointed out that Elon asked for help but never pressured Andrea or told him what to say.

“I think here is why Elon is so special because working independently is really important. When you are independent, you are like an external voice.”

“So I started to work independently. I shared the data with Ella and with the team.”

The difference, Andrea explained, between the newer and older Twitter was that the under previous leadership, Twitter tried brush the issue asside saying that it didn’t matter and it wasn’t an issue. Ella and her team, however, were completely different. Ella worked with Andrea which was different from the previous Twitter.

After thanking Andrea for his work and helping with this, Eliza pointed out that Jack Dorsey said that what Elon said wasn’t true.

“The truth is that previous Twitter did remove some child sexual abuse material. I never want to give off the impression that they were not any at all. They just were not removing it at scale and not prioritizing the detection and removal.”

“I think that that’s a really important distinction to make and i think also the other important distinction to make when we’re speaking about these issues is that there is still going to be be content out there. There is there is still going to be hashtags out there.”

“I’ve seen some of the corporate media and other tweets trying to dispel, ‘oh we can still find content. We can still find content,’ well number one if you’re seeing content, you should be reporting it to the Cyber Tip Line and to Twitter as well.

“But the deal is the prioritization of it and the detection and removal process. That’s what you really want to see get better. Like I said previously, you don’t shoot necessarily for perfection because that’s naive.”

“Yeah we’d all love to live in a world where no evil exists but that’s not what you want to shoot for here with Twitter. The other thing that I think is really important is to encourage the platform to be the best that it can be and encourage innovation.

“I think that the more we all use Twitter, the more advertisers will come back and I firmly feel now after watching Elon Musk tackle this issue since he’s purchased the platform. I firmly feel that Twitter will very soon be the leader in the issue of of removing child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse.”

“Elon’s never paid me a penny. and I get nothing for saying this. I’m just letting folks know. I serve survivors. My loyalty is always with survivors. So this is not an Elon thing. This is a factual thing.”

“Where I see the future of this going is Twitter will lead the way and the rest of the internet will have to level up as a result. One of the ways you can help Twitter is by using the platform. The more we use the platform, the more advertisers will come back, the more money they’ll have to throw into these issues.”

“Elon is taking a financial hit by making this the number one priority. I want to make that very clear. This is not a cool thing to tackle. This is not a fun thing to tackle.

This is a nightmare of a thing to tackle and it’s not going to bring the the praise and the advertisers. What brings the praise and the advertisers is ‘oh this content creator came on and got got 1,000,000 views on a video about such and such.’”

Eliza pointed out that not only is this a thankless jobs but noted that as the Twitter Files come out, we will see how Twitter had prioritized the censorship of non-illegal words, thoughts and ideas from innocent citizens all over the world.

“That was their actual priority. So as these folks like Ella are out here begging for the resources and funding to remove child sexual abuse material the platform prioritize the removal of non illegal words, thoughts and ideas, and the censorship of innocent citizens.”

“Let’s reiterate. The child sexual abuse material have been on Twitter for four years 10 million views and yet if you said certain words, especially during the pandemic; especially during an election season, you were removed instantly.”

“And yet this child sexual abuse material was collecting views putting minor survivors lives at risk.”

Ella added that she agreed focusing on the right things will help Twitter do better.

“I think there were a lot of things that the company was trying to do and it lost sight in some respects of the priorities.”

“I mean the reality is when you refuse to staff things that are this important and you’re still staffing other things, you know, like a product launch that may not be as critical, and meanwhile you’ve got all of this going on, or some other program that is nowhere near as critical as some of some of these issues, the reality is you’ve lost sight of the priorities.”

“Your priorities are misplaced. The users, user protection, keeping illegal content off the platform should always be number one.”

Andrea noted that what Twitter is doing now will be useful for its users. He added that the material is so disturbing and Twitter working with law enforcment agencies around the world can really save children.

He added that the work Ella and the team were doing is a very important role in society.

“If you see what Twitter did in the past, you would probably feel sad. You will feel angry. Then if you start asking the old leadership they would say that they all good. They did their best. But in reality we know that it’s a bit different.”

“”From what I know, everything that Twitter is doing right now is really improving. Not just the platform but even some peoples’ lives.”

My Question to Ella

I asked Ella if she thought Twitter would make the tools they developed to detect CSE freely available to other platforms such as Facebook or Instagram. She replied:

“I will take a moment to give kudos to other trust and safety across different organizations who have reached out to me directly in the last week and said, ‘How can we help? How can we work together? What can we utilize? We’re all very serious about this. We want to take action.’”

“As I said at the very beginning, it’s partnerships across the industry; across the world that actually help you stop this and be more effective. And so, we actually welcome the partnerships with other organizations.”

“They may have tools that we can utilize, right? It’s not one way and so, my geniune hope is that — we have some calls getting set up for next week — my genuine hope is that truly can start partnering more and more.

“Not just with organizations that focus on this but also other companies in our space that can help us be even more effective and vice versa.”

Eliza added that she’s making sure Twitter is setting up those meetings.

“I don’t want to be bamboozled this time and I swear to God on my life I will not be made a fool out of this.”

“And just so you guys know, Elon Musk did get a message to me two days before he purchased Twitter; before it was done. Before the final sale was done.”

“And he said, ‘I’m going to make the removal of child sexual abuse material my number one priority.,’ And I said, ‘Hmm. Well okay, you gotta show me. The three previous CEOs have told me the same line. So let’s see it.”

“And then he showed me.”

Our interview with Elon Musk.

If you listen to the replay, Elon Musk joined us around an hour and nineteen minutes. Before he came on, Eliza said:

“You look in the eyes of these minor survivors. You speak to them Speak to one of these survivors’ mothers. That’s what my message was to day to Jack. Like, don’t you think you owe John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 an apology?”

“Look in the eyes of these mothers says eyes filled with tears all they want is this child sexual abuse material to be removed of Twitter, an American tech company.”

Eliza pointed out that independend journalists such as Eva Fox have been amazing and have helped her as she was trying to raise awareness.

Elon Speaks

Elon came on and Eliza welcomed him, noting that Twitter’s employees were doing an incredible job while we waited for him to join us. Elon thanked Eliza for raising awareness.

“First of all, thanks for bringing this issue to light and helping us sort of root it out on Twitter. I was actually really shocked to learn about it and well, this is just obviously like I said, top priority at Twitter is to get rid of it.”

“This is literally the top priority in the whole company that Twitter cannot be used for child exploitation. I think that it just obviously should be the number one priority.”

“It’s insane for it not to be the numberone priority.”

Eliza said to Elon:

“Elon, you know when child sexual abuse material and exploitation is on Twitter or any platform but especially since we’re talking about Twitter, it is a matter of life and death for these minor survivors and those these minor survivors have deserved right along for this platform to make this their top priority.”

“And I truly feel in my heart that Twitter will set the standard. And this will help to — I know already, I can see the innovation. I can see it happening so quickly, Elon, it’s a miracle. And this will set the standard across the internet and this will ultimately be very good for humanity. Thank you so much.”

“I can’t speak for every survivor but I can speak for myself. This is something we have all been waiting for for a very long time. Thank you.”

Eliza told Elon that Ella was doing a great job and that we were all going over Andrea’s report. Elon hadn’t yet read the report before he joined us in the Space but promised to do so. Elon said that he had been working all day and this was the first moment he had free.

He said,

“Absolutely certainly have my commitment that that the number one priority on the whole system is any kind of child exploitation stuff it’s got to go.”

Eliza emphasized that this will save lives and shared how it is supposed to work.

“When the child sexual abuse material is detected and removed in the manner that it’s supposed to be off of Twitter, the report goes to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children — it goes to NCMEC. And then NCMEC contacts he appropriate law enforcement globally and then they go get the bad guys.”

“And one of the fun parts of my twitter activism and advocacy is that I also post arrests and so if folks want to lookup Cyber Tip Line arrests, please do. They’re happening globally all the time.”

Eliza pointed out that there’s a new sheriff in town at Twitter and that these predators have been on too long. That it was time to put a lot of bad people away. Elon agreed and said.

“I couldn’t agree more. You have my commitment, you know, the full resources of Twitter. Whatever it takes is on board with this. And like I said, number 1 priority.”

Tara pointed out that it doesn’t just stop with Twitter and pointed out that there are so many other platforms where this is a major rampant problem — that they are not taking care of it. Eliza said:

“I’m going to keep up with Twitter but let it be known. I’ve said it publicly and I’ll say it again. There are thousands of survivors of the United Nations globally so my next project is to take on the United Nations and I will win.”

Elon said that this sounds good and Eliza told him that she appreciated him for making this his number one priority.

“Lives will be saved you’ve put really good people in charge I’m going to give you an opportunity to look at this bombshell report. It’s freaking insane.”

“I don’t know if you want to talk about what happened with Jack today.”

“Is there a chance that maybe he was in the dark so much that he just truly doesn’t know what’s going on?”

Elon replied:

“Jack’s a friend of mine and I think Jack’s a good person. But I think he was maybe not present at Twitter as much as he perhaps should have been in this regard.

“I don’t think Jack was doing anything deliberately bad. I think there was a lot going on that he wasn’t aware of and perhaps should have been. But it’s a pretty significant disconnect here.”

Eliza mentioned that Jack actually tried to help her so it wasn’t that he was completely hands-off or didn’t care.

“I think that Elon and I both agree. We actually like jack and we think he’s a good person. It’s just with this particular issue I’m not really 100% sure what happened.

“And I hope that we find out more as Twitter Files is exposed and as you know as the platform keeps updating on the child sexual exploitation problem. I hope that more is revealed with that.”

“I just don’t want to dog out Jack because I actually like Jack and he actually did try to help me.”

Elon added that he felt the same way.

“We’re going to be on it big time going forward so thanks for raising this issue and please keep raising it until it is addressed. It’s probably going to be an ongoing battle. We’re just going to have to keep fighting it over time.”

I jumped in and asked Elon, Ella and Eliza a question — which Eliza, who is the expert, answered. I asked:

“What are some things that parents and caretakers of children should know to protect their children in their care especially with their access and use of social media?”

Eliza said:

“So the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a great — it depends on the age of the children and what age they’re on. A lot of people like to say,’ Oh don’t let your kids on social media,’ OK well this is reality. This is a real world so we have to live in reality.”

“Using safety settings is crucial. Having an open and honest dialogue with your children is very important. You know, just having an open conversation depending on the age, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has some great cartoons for very young kids about internet safety.”

“It’s pretty cool actually. They started showing those in schools as well the cartoons and the cartoons are really fun and interactive and then also for older children there are some great documentaries like sex extortion.”

“I think having an open and honest dialogue with your children is the best way and keeping up with them. Technology is constantly changing. Facebook and Instagram just sort of updated some of their safety features especially Instagram. That was a really, really big deal.”

“Get involved in your children’s lives. The truth is that Twitter is not responsible for the initial abuse. Twitter is not responsible for the sexual exploitation.”

“Twitter is only responsible when the child sexual abuse and exploitation ends up on the platform. So before then, that is the parents and caregivers responsibility — the family’s responsibility to look after the children and make sure that they know what their children are doing online.”

“Right now the biggest threat is going to be sextortion for young teenage boys specifically. It can happen to anyone — sextortion — but young teenage boys specifically. The FBI’s been screaming about sextortion and I’m not a big fan of the FBI but I can also confirm that sextortion is one of our biggest threats for our young folks right now.”

“And unfortunately we are seeing deaths by suicide for young children. That’s that’s another thing too you know. When it comes sextortion, children are dying by suicide because they’re terrified to tell their parents.”

“If you look over the John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 case from Twitter, you know John Doe number 1, when he was reporting to Twitter, was on the brink of suicide because he was embarrassed. He was traumatized. That video from Twitter was going around his church. It was going around his school.”

“He was going to school. And so, children unfortunately, are dying by suicide because they are being sextorted. So this starts at home we have to educate and look after our own children and our own communities.”

Elon also answered, saying that he couldn’t agree more. Eliza pointed out that Elon probably never thought he’d be here. He just wants to go to Mars. How did he end up in this specific conversation. He answered,

“It wasn’t on my bingo card.”

Eliza told Elon that she needed his help specifically. And when she said that, I remembered that 2020 blog post she’d written titled, Technology, Elon Musk and Human Trafficking. In that post she wrote:

“When I think of the global crisis of modern-day slavery it seems too big to ever be solved. At times, I am flooded with the feeling that not only is finding the solution impossible, but it may in fact get worse. That feeling of extreme hopelessness makes me want to give up the fight for change.”

“In order to get out of that funk, I often think of Elon Musk. He is seemingly unafraid to make the impossible into something real by defying all odds. SpaceX, Tesla, and Neuralink are all examples of an “impossible dream” becoming reality. Tesla exemplifies using technology and creativity to solve our biggest problems.”

“From a cleaner environment to safer, more efficient transportation, Tesla is leading the way. They also made these advancements fun and comfortable making it easier for the public to adapt to the changes. Solving big problems with a smile seems to be something that Elon does with ease.”

“When I view human trafficking through an Elon lens it is not impossible to solve. It will just require creativity and thinking outside of the box. Much like with the goals of Tesla, artificial intelligence will play a massive role in fighting these crimes. I have often said that artificial intelligence is our last hope in making human trafficking virtually obsolete. The technology available can be used for good to help humanity.”

“When most folks think about human trafficking they are unaware of how much of an online crime it truly is. Not all human trafficking takes place through the internet, but ending the online portion would free up resources to tackle the issue offline.”

“A lot of people are terrified and apprehensive of artificial intelligence. I am both simultaneously excited and nervous. We do have a reason to fear artificial intelligence that isn’t human-centered, but solving online problems like child sexual exploitation material and digital human trafficking is something to look forward to.”

Now, a little over two years later, Eliza is having a very direct conversation about the exploitation of children and Elon made the removal of this content from Twitter his number one priority.

Eliza told Elon that she always knew that if he started tackling the issue, he would hire the right individuals for the job.

“Because that’s one of your gifts and that’s been my experience here with Twitter so far. I never thought any of these things would be possible here with Twitter. I’ve seen miracles happen. I’m trying not to be hyperbolic but the data speaks for itself.”

She then asked Elon to share his thoughts about the corporate media’s negative coverage of this issue. She explained that the running narrative is that Elon axed most of the child safety staff.

Elon replied:

“Well it would have been difficult to axe people that didn’t exist since we reallocated resources within the company. It basically, as you know, had almost no resources. We shifted allocations in the company so that there were resources on child exploitation that there weren’t before.”

He explained that the narrative the media is pushing is completely opposite of what is currently happening.

“As you know, you monitor it. It’s a gigantic improvement — what’s actually happened. So, I don’t know — it’s certianly not improving people’s trust in the media or shouldn’t because they are literally saying the exact opposite of what’s actually going on.”

“And I’ve been clear internaly over and over again that it is our top priority and actions speak louder than words. We’ve taken actions as you’ve outlined and we will continue to take actions. And we’ll do whatever it takes to address this issue.”

“And you know you have a direct line to me on this matter and so does Andrea and others. Twitter will be better than anyone else and hopefully set an example for how other social media networks should be operating.”

Tara pointed out that Twitter already is better than the other platforms.

“And your transparency speaks volumes versus other platforms and Twitter 1.0. We had no transparency. We had no knowledge of what was happening behind the scenes and prior to you getting here, we didn’t even have the ability to report tweets as child exploitation material which is now already implemented. So thank you to you and your team for making that happen.”

I added in my own thanks to Elon and told him and the group that when Eliza first told me about the hashtags and I interviewed her for this article, I researched those hashtags to see if they were nuked as she said they were. They were, thankfully and I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw a blank page under the latest tweets, photos tab, and video tab.

The article I’d written for Teslarati highlighted the actions Twitter has been taking to remove explicit material since Elon took over. Eliza informed me of the hashtags being nuked, as she called them, and we agreed that an article should have been written. So I wrote one and she was my expert. I was prepared to be traumatized, honestly.

I thanked Elon and his team for getting that material off Twitter. This isn’t to say that it’s gone completely as Ella and Elon both mentioned this will be a continuous battle. But that night, I was relieved when I didn’t see the material. Eliza warned me that this was really dark and told me that I didn’t have to do it. But I can’t just write an article without researching.

Elon replied:

“Absolutely. Well like I said, it’s top priority of the company and the moment you see anything that we should take action on, I’ll personally make sure it happens. So, thanks for help in this regard and we’ll keep at it.”

Andrea spoke up and Eliza pointed out to Elon that not only has Andrea been up working for days, but this content has traumatized him.

Eliza also emphasized the importance of making sure that victims’ privacy is protected. Andrea published the report which included some content with blurred out faces of the victims. Eliza said:

“To be completely transparent, folks, and I tweeted something about this as well. We went back and forth as to what they could publish and put up because I was nervous about them posting content that could identify potential victims.”

“When a victim’s imagery is out or a survivor’s imagry is out in public like that, it could be life or death. The abuser could see the victim as a liability. So they’ll do whatever they need to do to end that life.”

“So that was sort of one of the reasons he’s been putting himself in a lot of stress and traumatizing himself by looking at this content.”

“So yeah, Elon, please take care of the mental health of your staff looking at this content and dealing with these issues because we need them for the long game and not the short — this is going to be a long haul and not a spring, you know?”

Elon agreed and Eliza then asked him how he felt that this issue has been virtually been completely covered by independent journalists? Eliza added that she was always shocked at how little the corporate media wanted to cover this issue even after the John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 case dropped.

Elon replied:

“In general, I’m a huge fan of citizen journalism because it seems like the narrative in terms of what actually get put in newspapers is set by half a dozen or maybe even as few as three editors in chief of like say, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

“And if it’s not important to them it just doesn’t show up. But with Twitter, there’s an opportunity for the citizens to come together and publish things that are important to the people.”

“So I think that’s actually incredibly powerful and a new thing that we want to encourage as much as possible. That’s why we want to have long-form tweets and so you can actually write something in-depth and figure out ways to get high-quality reporting on whatever the matter is surfaced so people can actually see it.”

“Anyway, I’m a big fan of citizen journalism, in general, and the real-time nature of Twitter, as well it’s a lot interactive as opposed seeing a news paper article which is information flowing one way towards people. There’s no real ability to interact with that information.”

“And actually the thing is, sometimes people are like, ‘Well citizen journalism. Isn’t that like, someone who’s not an expert journalist?’ I’m like, ‘Well actually, no because citizen journalism is like, people writing who really know about the subject.”

“They are an expert in the subject being written about. Maybe they didn’t go to journalism school but they are actually are much better experts in the area that’s being written or talked about. This is actually higher quality information, I think, than would come from a newspaper. Not lower quality.”

Andrea asked Elon how he feels when he reads the misinformation the corporate media puts out against Elon. Elon pointed out that the mainstrea media is always attacking him.

“I’ve been attacked so many times in the media it’s insane. That’s not to say I don’t have feelings and sometimes it is quite hurtful to read things that are the total opposite of the truth. But there is the ability on Twitter to correct it.”

“And at times when I’m wrong, to be corrected in turn by others on Twitter. So, as Twitter improves the signal to noise — where it’s like more and more useful information, that is where you learn things or that is entertaining of beautiful. Obviously we want to get rid of scams and spam and any kind of exploitation.”

“ I think it could be something really wonderful and a force for good for civilization. That’s the vision for Twitter. I also think it’s way more positive than the press. If you read the newspapers — in any given newspaper what percentage of the articles are positve about anything at all?”

“Almost all the articles are negative. If there’s a subject that’s newsworthy — like writing about my name will just generate clicks right? If you’ve got a combination of my name that will generate clicks and then a newspaper having a very negative bias, in general, then this is just going to result in a lot of negative stories. It’s just like a machine, basically.”

“Like I said, we can correct this on Twitter and I think over time as people — if we’re doing our job well at Twitter then — people will increasingly see Twitter as a source of truth. to understand what’s really going on and they will turn away from traditional media and more and more towards Twitter.”

“And that will provide a competitove force for the media to be more truthful or they’ll simply keep losng more and more of the public’s attention.”

Eliza asked Elon what the exact moment was for him when he decided to purchase Twitter and the exact moment he realized that he wanted to make the removal of CSE the top priority at Twitter. He replied:

“The two are sepearate because I didn’t actualy know about the child sexual exploitation — the severity of the issue. My concern was just, in general, that Twitter seemed to be drifting in a bad direction. I can’t quite put my finger on it.”

“It’s not like there was one moment, you know. It was like some of those was like, ‘ Oh the Babylon Bee got banned.’ Listen, I’m not paying $44 billion dollars to reinstate a satire website, okay? That would be insane. The Babylon Bee is fine but that’s not the reason.”

“We need to have like a digital public square where it’s maximally inclusive of the population where people feel like they can have their say and there’s not some sort of thumb on the scale maybe hiding bad information or being politically in one direction or another but that it’s a fair and level playing field.”

“And it just felt like the playing field was tilting more and more. and there was less attention to bad things that were going on. I was just worried about the future of civilization, frankly, so I was like, ‘Okay, man, this really needs to go in a good direction but it just seems to be going in a steadily worse direction over time.”

“I better try to do something about it. And that’s what prompted the acquisition offer. And then it was, I guess, a few weeks after that — well maybe even a week after that — that the magnitude of the child sexual exploitation stuff became apparent.”

“As soon as I learnt that, I was like, ‘Wait a second. This is crazy, This has gotta be priority number one. And Eliza, you and Andrea were key in bringing that forward. And then Ella internally.”

“So thank you all for doing that. And as soon as that became apparent, we immediately made it number one priority and with your help, we’ve made a lot of progress. And, we’ll keep at it. It’s going to be a constant battle, but we’ll keep at it.”

After thanking Elon, Eliza wanted to know how involved federal agencies such as the FBI, NSA, CIA with Twitter.

“What exactly are we looking at as American citizens and citizens of the globe with our three-letter agencies behind the scenes at Twitter?”

Elon pointed out that it probably wasn’t the case those agencies were monolithic but he has had some interaction with the FBI over the years but has had more interaction with the CIA.

“Frankly, my general perception of people at the CIA is that they are good people. I mean, maybe not everyone’s good but the people that I’ve met at the CIA are good. I’ve met fewer people at the FBI but I’m sure there are a lot of good people at the FBI and most people have good motivations.”

“I haven’t seen any like, smoking gun thing yet but if we do find something that shows questionable collution then we will surface it and bring it to light.”

Eliza then asked if Elon believed if the Twitter Files would reveal any situation where the U.S. government infringed on any American citizens’ first amendment right. Elon pointed out that it was possible and if it turned out to be the case, he would bring it to light.

Eliza pointed out that the Twitter Files were giving her a new look at how Twitter censored innocent people while not removing child sexual abuse material at scale.

Elon said:

“That is unbelieveable, frankly. It’s terrible. Our goal is to address these issues. Like I said, child sexual exploitation stuff is number one priority and just also ensuring that Twitter is an even playing field from a political standpoint to there’s no preference for a party or another — domestically or internationally.

“And in general, try to serve as much good as possible for the future of civilization. I’ve only been on the job for about five weeks, here. So, it’s not a long time. I think we’ve made a lot of progress in that time. I think that progress will accelerate.”

Eliza, who was Twitter’s biggest hater (her words), told Elon that she was proud of him and the team. She pointed out that lives will be saved and Elon said:

“That’s great. Hopefully, lives are saved and lives are also improved. Like I said, we want to make this a force for good. It’s not going to be perfect but we’ll try our damnded to make sure it’s good. I’m pretty good at executing on the technology front so I feel like, together with the rest of the Twitter team we can really make a difference here.”

After this statement, Elon signed off and we all thanked him.

Final Thoughts.

As a journalist who supports Elon Musk, I just want to say that I’ve never been so proud of him and the good he is doing. I don’t understand those who hate him. Read these words. Listen to his interviews. Take the time and research.

I’ve met and interviewed him in person in June of this year and what struck me the most was his kindness and humility. I was a bit nervous — I am often shy in person yet vocal online. However, he and the team at Tesla were gracious hosts.

Elon’s being here in this Space with us last night shows his dedication to not just Twitter or child safety, but in my opinion, of good. Grimes once described Elon as a force for good and she is 100% correct.

Thank you, Elon.

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