Musk’s X Slashes Trust and Safety Engineers, Australian Officials Report

It has been revealed that Elon Musk, after acquiring Twitter and rebranding it as X, terminated 80% of engineers dedicated to trust and safety, alongside a significant reduction in non-engineering trust and safety employees. 

The report, released by eSafety, Australia’s online safety commissioner, sheds light on the drastic workforce changes and their potential impact on user safety.

According to the findings, Musk’s company, X, faced questioning under Australia’s Online Safety Act regarding its safety measures. Before Musk’s $40 billion acquisition in October 2022, Twitter boasted 279 engineers focused on trust and safety worldwide. 

However, by May 2023, this number had plummeted to 55. The trust and safety team, initially standing at 4,062, was downsized to 2,849, with the full-time content moderation team experiencing a 50% reduction, dropping from 107 to 51. 

It’s crucial to note that a significant portion of X’s moderators operate as contractors, with their numbers decreasing from 2,613 in October 2022 to 2,305 in May 2023.

The ramifications of these workforce cuts have become apparent, as per eSafety’s report. Users reported a 20% slowdown in response times to hateful tweets since Musk’s takeover. 

Furthermore, the government agency highlighted a 70% delay in X’s attempts to address hateful direct messages.

X confirmed to the commissioner that, following the dissolution of its Trust and Safety Council, which previously offered external advice, it had not endeavored to establish a replacement body. 

Additionally, X admitted to lacking any full-time staff solely dedicated to handling issues related to hateful conduct, both before and after Musk’s acquisition.

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X Faces Legal Scrutiny for Safety and Non-disclosure

musk-x-slashes-trust-safety-engineers-australian-official-report
It has been revealed that Elon Musk, after acquiring Twitter and rebranding it as X, terminated 80% of engineers dedicated to trust and safety, alongside a significant reduction in non-engineering trust and safety employees.

Despite requests for clarification from Forbes, X did not respond, offering only an automated response indicating a busy schedule.

Julie Inman Grant, eSafety Commissioner, expressed concerns about the surge in reports of online hate from X after Musk’s arrival. 

Grant, who previously worked on trust and safety for Twitter, emphasized the unsettling trend of accounts flagged for violations reappearing on the platform without proper scrutiny.

Forbes had previously reported on the downsizing of Twitter’s trust and safety team following Musk’s takeover, and issues with child exploitation persisting on the platform. 

However, the latest data presents a comprehensive view of the extent of the workforce reductions.

In a separate development, eSafety announced civil action against X in December for failing to provide information on how the company handles online child sexual abuse. 

X’s refusal to pay a $610,500 AUD ($409,000) penalty for non-disclosure prompted this legal action. 

Grant indicated that if the court rules in the government’s favor, X could face a substantial fine, potentially reaching into the hundreds of millions of dollars, calculated from the time X was out of compliance, starting from March 2023.

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