X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, has slashed the number of people on its disinformation and election integrity team just weeks after it said it was hiring for new positions to help it guard against foreign interference.
The cuts, first reported by the tech-focused media outlet The Information, included Aaron Rodericks, the head of the team, said a person familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concerns about professional consequences.
The person familiar with the cuts said four people had been let go — the entirety of X's election integrity unit in its Dublin office. It's unclear how many people remain on the team.
X did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musk appeared to confirm the cuts in a post on X.
X had recently posted job openings on its "threat disruption" team, and in August it published a blog post detailing its efforts to ensure "accurate and safe political discourse on X."
"We’re currently expanding our safety and elections teams to focus on combating manipulation, surfacing inauthentic accounts and closely monitoring the platform for emerging threats," the company said in the blog post.
CEO Linda Yaccarino, a former NBCUniversal advertising executive, also recently told The Financial Times that the company plans to expand its trust and safety and elections teams (NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC News).
The cuts, which were reported on the day of the second Republican presidential primary debate, are part of X's broader pullback from its efforts to address false information and foreign interference that once ran rampant on the platform. Owner Elon Musk instituted broad layoffs when he took over the company, some of them on its once-sizable "trust and safety" team.
Musk has also aggressively criticized the company’s previous moderation efforts, releasing internal documents that he and conservative commentators have claimed showed a liberal bent to how it handled elections and misinformation.
In recent months, conservative users who had been critical of X's content moderation policies took to posting Rodericks' previous tweets and likes, suggesting he was working against Musk’s vision of a so-called free speech platform.
Rodericks secured a temporary injunction in an Irish court last week restraining the company from further disciplinary proceedings. According to The Irish Times, Rodericks told the court that X executives were punishing him because he “demonstrated hostility” with posts critical of Musk and Yaccarino.
The Information's report quickly triggered criticism from some tech watchdogs. The Tech Oversight Project, a nonprofit organization that supports breaking up large tech companies, pointed to a recent European Commission report that found X had the largest uptick in disinformation and Russian propaganda of any tech platform from January to May.
"Since taking charge of X, Elon Musk has used the platform to foment antisemitism, hate speech, and disinformation — playing into the hands of bad actors like Russia, China, and Iran," Kyle Morse, the deputy executive director of the Tech Oversight Project, said in a news release. "Decimating their election integrity team — on top of last year’s firings — means that X will continue to be a toxic hellscape that people and advertisers should avoid."