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28 Sep, 2023 17:52

Elon Musk says X ‘election integrity’ team undermined democracy

The platform owner has sacked much of the social media team that was supposedly working to protect information during campaigns
Elon Musk says X ‘election integrity’ team undermined democracy

Elon Musk has fired most of the employees who were assigned to protect election integrity at X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, suggesting that they were manipulating voters rather than trying to prevent the distribution of disinformation.

Responding to an X post on Wednesday claiming that the company had sacked half of its election integrity team, including its director, Musk said, “Oh, you mean the ‘election integrity’ team that was undermining election integrity? Yeah, they’re gone.”

Musk, who bought Twitter last October for $44 billion, made his comment after media reports indicated that he had gutted the company’s election integrity staff, including team leader Aaron Rodericks. Just last month, X said it was expanding its “safety and election teams” to help ensure the right to “accurate and safe political discourse” heading into next year’s major elections around the world.

Musk currently ranks as the world’s richest person, based on a net worth estimated at more than $250 billion by Forbes magazine. He vowed to make Twitter a bastion of free speech when he made a takeover bid for the platform last year.

In April, the company announced a new enforcement policy on disinformation -- called “Freedom of Speech, not Freedom of Reach” – under which it throttles back the exposure of posts that violate its civic integrity policy, rather than removing them. The platform also added a “community notes” tool that enables some users to add context to posts that they deem to be misleading.

Legacy media outlets have criticized Musk for sacking many of the staffers who worked as content moderators under the platform’s previous leadership team. The billionaire decried the censoring of conservative voices on social media during the 2020 election cycle. Late last year, he released internal documents – dubbed the “Twitter Files” – exposing how decisions were made to suppress certain commentary and ban users such as then-President Donald Trump, particularly in the wake of the Capitol riot. One installment of the Twitter Files detailed how the platform helped block dissemination of a bombshell report on alleged influence-peddling by Joe Biden’s family, just three weeks before he was elected president.

Anti-conservative activist groups, such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), have urged advertisers to quit doing business with X, citing an alleged increase in “hateful” content on the platform. Musk threatened earlier this month to sue the ADL for trying to destroy his social media company by making fraudulent accusations of anti-Semitism.

 

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