Elon Musk’s Twitter, once again, finds itself embroiled in a contract standoff. This time, it is with Google Cloud, as the social media platform has reportedly refused to pay its bills when its existing contract is nearly at an end. With potential consequences that could cripple its ability to address user safety and moderation, the standoff raises concerns about the platform’s commitment to maintaining a secure and healthy online environment.
According to a report that first appeared in Platformer, the existing renewal date of the contract with Google Cloud is June 30, and from the looks of it, Twitter is withholding payments to Google Cloud, one of its chief cloud computing providers. Unless the bills are paid or the contract is renewed, Twitter’s access to Google Cloud could be cut off once the contract ends. For those who missed it, Twitter had a contract of $1 billion with Google to host some of its services on the company’s Google Cloud servers.
Instead, Twitter is reportedly working to move as many services off of Google’s infrastructure before the contract expires this month, but the effort is “running behind schedule.” Numerous services – including those dedicated to fight spam, child sex abuse material (CSAM), and others – currently function on Google’s cloud infrastructure. This also includes Smyte – a company that had been acquired by Twitter five years ago, and which offers tools to stop abuse and harassment.
Zoe Schiffer, Managing Editor of Platformer, noted in a tweet that if Smyte was shut down, it could lead to Twitter’s safety and trust teams “being crippled.” This development comes a few months after Twitter has been trying to renegotiate its contract with Google. At that time – in March 2022 – the social media platform also owed Amazon Web Services at least $70 million on top of other payments for its cloud services. led to the company to threaten withholding advertising payments.
Neither Twitter nor Google responded to comments on the matter. This development comes at a time when social media platforms are facing mounting pressure to tackle emerging challenges such as disinformation, hate speech, and online harassment (and Musk’s ‘hardcore Twitter 2.0’ have not helped things). A prolonged contract dispute could leave Twitter more susceptible to the proliferation of harmful content. Twitter’s trust and safety teams (even after the extensive layoffs at Twitter and under the Musk regime) are responsible for content moderation, combating online harassment, and fostering a secure environment for users on the platform.
Without the necessary support from Google Cloud, Twitter’s capacity to execute these pivotal functions are likely to be more compromised. This, in turn, can ensure that the platform struggles to implement timely measures, update moderation policies, and deploy necessary technological advancements, potentially leaving users exposed to online abuse and other harmful behaviors. It could go on to result in delays in addressing harmful content, an upsurge in abusive behaviour, and a loss of user confidence in the micro-blogging site.