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After Musk’s mass layoffs, X says it’s expanding safety and election teams

Twitter's old bird logo next to the X logo that replaced it.

Getty Images | NurPhoto

X, the social network that most people still call Twitter, says it is adding staff to its safety and elections teams as it starts allowing more political advertising.

“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 a blog post today.

X probably wouldn’t need to hire more staff if not for owner Elon Musk’s extreme cost-cutting. Since buying Twitter in October 2022, he has reduced the employee count from about 7,500 people to around 1,500.

Hiring more people might help X appease regulators. European regulators reportedly urged the company to hire more human moderators and fact-checkers to review posts. The US Federal Trade Commission has been investigating whether X has enough resources to protect users’ privacy and comply with obligations from previous settlements with the FTC.

Twitter banned political ads in 2019

Twitter started banning political ads in late 2019 but relaxed the policy in January 2023 to allow cause-based advertising and other types of political ads. Prior to Musk’s purchase of Twitter, the company policy said it “globally prohibits the promotion of political content” because of “our belief that political message reach should be earned, not bought.”

While the policy has allowed the promotion of political content in the US since January, it was changed in recent weeks to expand the number of ad formats that political advertisers are allowed to buy.

X’s blog post today said its political-ad policies in the US prohibit “the promotion of false or misleading content, including false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence in an election, while seeking to preserve free and open political discourse.”

On August 24, former President Donald Trump made his first post on the platform in over two years. The pre-Musk Twitter banned Trump after the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, a moderation decision that Musk called “morally wrong and flat-out stupid.”

Russia has used Twitter and other social networks to disseminate propaganda during elections. Propaganda can spread without paid advertising, but X’s current policy on allowing political ads says that “foreign nationals and non-US entities are prohibited from targeting political ads to the US.” US-based advertisers “must obtain pre-approval to run political ads.”

Another change may help X comply with the advertising transparency rules in Europe’s Digital Services Act. “We’ll also provide a global advertising transparency center so that everyone can review political posts being promoted on X, in addition to robust screening processes to ensure only eligible groups and campaigns are able to advertise,” the company blog post said.

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