Ahead of 2024, Musk’s X cuts its election integrity staff

The 2024 elections, when Americans will once again choose their president, is just around the corner, but Elon Musk has abruptly cut staff from his X team that combats election disinformation.

The Information was the first to report that X, formerly known as Twitter, got rid of half of the global election integrity team, and Musk soon confirmed the news on X. He stated: “Oh you mean the ‘Election Integrity’ Team that was undermining election integrity? Yeah, they’re gone.”

Even though the said team now has fewer than ten staff members, there’s still time, however, as the 2024 US presidential election is over a year away. And, of course, the scale of impact that X, actually a mid-sized social media platform, has on any huge election campaign should not be overstated.

Nevertheless, the latest move is a bit bizarre as X had announced in a blog post at the end of August that it was expanding its “safety and elections teams to focus on combating manipulation, surfacing inauthentic accounts and closely monitoring the platform for emerging threats.”

Besides, X’s chief executive Linda Yaccarino recently told the Financial Times that the platform was aiming to expand its elections and trust and safety teams by hiring more staff ahead of major elections in 2024.

Just last week, the European Union advised Musk to take better care in fighting disinformation and comply with new laws on fake news and propaganda. This kind of content is now deemed illegal across the EU under the Digital Services Act, which came into force in August.

In a fresh report, X was found to have the highest ratio of disinformation posts of all large social media platforms.

Another review by NewsGuard, an anti-misinformation outfit – found that engagement “soared” by 70% for Russian, Chinese, and Iranian disinformation sources after Musk, who bought the app in 2022, removed labels from state-run propaganda accounts.

After acquiring the platform in late 2022, Musk immediately slashed its workforce from around 7,500 employees to fewer than 2,000 after a series of job cuts. That number keeps shrinking.

X – which relies on ads for the majority of its income – also has to deal with an advertising boycott of the company by several major firms. They are worried about X’s approach to content moderation.

Musk himself has called himself a “free speech absolutist” and says he’s keen to allow a broader range of voices on X. To him, all speech is of equal merit and deserving to be platformed – including speech that incites hatred and violence or is pure state propaganda and disinformation.