Musk, Yaccarino contradict each other on status of X's election integrity team

One says it's dead, the other says it's growing, and we all know how grumpy Elon gets when contradicted

It's only been a day since rumors began swirling that X, formerly Twitter, had disabled features allowing users to report election misinformation, and the confusion hasn't been cleared up by dueling statements from platform owner Elon Musk and CEO Linda Yaccarino.

Responding to researcher claims that X had eliminated the ability to report posts for election misinformation – or disinformation of any kind, based on this reporter's look at the current post reporting options on X – Musk said yesterday that he had axed the entire team.

"Oh you mean the 'Election Integrity' Team that was undermining election integrity? Yeah, they're gone," Musk posted on X. His statement goes beyond claims from unnamed Twitter insiders who told The Information that half the election integrity team, including its chief, had been chopped.

Rolling Stone, meanwhile, reported in more detail the dismissal of those election integrity workers.

X CEO Yaccarino had an entirely different take when speaking at Vox's Code Conference yesterday, however. Asked why X had cut the team, Yaccarino said it hadn't. "It's an issue we take very seriously," Yaccarino reportedly said.

"And contrary to the comments that were made, there is a robust and growing team at X that is wrapping their arms around election integrity," she added. Note that Yaccarino didn't indicate whether it's the same team that exists now.

The truth of the matter, as has often been the case with internal business at X since Musk took over, is hard to determine, and X only responded to our questions with its usual automated message.

C-suite unrest at the heart of X

Whether or not X has disbanded its election integrity team, there is a reoccurring theme: the platform has become, or at least is perceived to be, a hotbed of misinformation and hate speech since Musk took over.

Reports on the rise of offensive content on X have been plentiful, and Musk has blamed organizations for exaggerating the extent of the problem. Most recently, the European Commission reported that X has the highest ratio of disinformation among large social media platforms.

The rise in hate speech and misinformation on X has coincided with the departure of most of Twitter's former top advertisers over fears their ads may be served alongside objectionable content.

But that's another thing Yaccarino called into question at Code Conference yesterday. "We have a good set of eyes on what is predictable, what's coming is that it looks like in early '24, we will be turning a profit," she said. "90 percent of the top 100 advertisers have returned to the platform in the last 12 weeks alone," she added.

Stepping back a bit, it's hard not to think of the wide-ranging interview Yaccarino gave to the Financial Times recently that made it sound a bit like the X CEO and Musk spend time grappling for control of the day-to-day.

Yoel Roth, former head of trust and safety at Twitter until he resigned shortly after Musk disbanded the team, also spoke at Code Conference in a surprise speech shortly before Yaccarino took to the stage. 

In his remarks, Roth warned Yaccarino about Musk's mercurial attitude and how quickly she could find herself on the receiving end of his online abuse and the public harassment that comes with it (Roth repeatedly had to leave his home due to threats when he first left Twitter).

"It happened to me. It happened after he sang my praises publicly. It happened after I didn't attack him. I didn't attack the company. I quietly left," Roth said. "For those that you love, you should be worried. I wish I had been more worried," Roth reportedly said, appearing to aim his comments at Yaccarino.

The X CEO dismissed his advice.

"He doesn't know me, I don't know him," Yaccarino said. "I work at X. He worked at Twitter." Surely the leopards won't eat her. ®

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