Musk’s X fired 80% of engineers working on trust and safety, Australian Government says


Elon Musk fired 80% of engineers dedicated to trust and safety after he bought Twitter and changed its name to X, while the company also let go a third of non-engineering trust and safety employees, according to a report released Wednesday by eSafety, Australia’s online safety commissioner.
Elon Musk fired Twitter trust and safety teams en masse

After Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, it fired a substantial number of staff working on trust and safety, X tells an Australian government agency. (Photo by Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images)

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The revelations come as the commissioner used Australia’s Online Safety Act to demand X answer questions on how it is keeping users safe. Musk’s company said that prior to his $40 billion acquisition in October 2022, it had 279 engineers focused on trust and safety globally.

That dropped to 55 by the end of May 2023. Its 4,062-strong trust and safety team was cut down to 2,849, while its full-time content moderation team was cut in half, from 107 down to 51, though most of X’s moderators are contractors. The company had 2,613 contracted moderators in October 2022, which fell to 2,305 in May 2023.

The cuts have had an impact, according to eSafety, which said users reported response times to hateful tweets had slowed by 20% since Musk’s takeover. Company attempts to deal with hateful direct messages had slowed by 70%, the government agency said.

X told the commissioner that after disbanding its Trust and Safety Council, which provided external advice to the company, it had not sought to establish a replacement body. X also confirmed to the agency it didn’t have any full-time staff singularly dedicated to hateful conduct issues globally, either before or after Musk took over.

X didn’t respond to Forbes’ questions about the government report. An automated response from X’s press email read, “Busy now, please check back later.”

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant, who worked on trust and safety for Twitter between 2014 and 2016, told Forbes that her department decided to home in on X because of a spike in reports of online hate from X into its investigations branch after Musk’s arrival. She was also disconcerted to see accounts that had previously been flagged for violations regarding violent and hateful conduct being allowed to return.

“You create the perfect storm by introducing tens of thousands of dangerous drivers back onto the roads without any sort of scrutiny, restriction or oversight,” she added.

Forbes previously reported that the trust and safety team at Twitter had been drastically reduced in size following Musk’s takeover, and that the social network was continuing to suffer issues with child exploitation despite the owner’s previous pledges to rid the site of the illegal content. But this is the first time data has shown the extent of the cuts.

Separately, in December, eSafety announced it was taking civil action against X for not providing information in response to a demand for details on how the company was dealing with online child sexual abuse. X had previously refused to pay a penalty of $610,500 AUD ($409,000) for failing to disclose the information. If the court rules in the government’s favour, then it could land X with a much more significant fine, said Grant.

She said the court could issue a maximum fine of $782,000 AUD ($524,456) per day from the time X was out of compliance, going back to March 2023, potentially taking the penalty into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

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