Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Social media platforms are backsliding, paving the way for chaos in 2024

Meta, YouTube, and Twitter are enabling agitators to subvert democracy (again)

Update (10/13/23): This article has been updated with additional examples.

Social media companies Meta, YouTube, and Twitter are backsliding on their efforts to combat misinformation, capitulating to right-wing pressure and allowing the same sort of dangerous content that has previously led to real-world harm.

Social media platforms’ failures to moderate false and dangerous content during the 2020 election contributed to the January 6 insurrection. Following the violence at the Capitol, platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube suspended former President Donald Trump from posting and developed new policies to curb dangerous falsehoods. The platforms have regularly struggled to enforce moderation policies, but the changes helped prevent some of the spread of harmful misinformation during the 2022 midterm elections.

Both before and since platforms made these changes, right-wing figures have repeatedly and relentlessly claimed that there is an unfair bias against them online. Media Matters and others have repeatedly debunked this claim, with a recent study showing that right-leaning Facebook pages earned more engagement than left-leaning or ideologically nonaligned pages in 2020 and 2021. 

Despite this reality, platforms have actually bent their rules and given preferential treatment to right-wing media and politicians. In the lead up to another presidential election and amid recurring election misinformation and conspiracy theories, platforms are further capitulating to right-wing pressure — loosening content moderation policies, downsizing content moderation and safety teams, and reinstating accounts known for pushing misinformation.

  • Meta is deprioritizing content moderation and user safety

  • Since the start of 2022, Meta has gradually reverted its policies and practices to how they were prior to the insurrection. The company has restored the previously banned accounts of political candidates and vowed not to fact-check them, with Trump regaining access to his Facebook and Instagram accounts. More recently, Meta has restored access to Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who was banned for spreading dangerous COVID-19 misinformation

    Meta has also laid off about a quarter of its workforce since November, cutting teams focused on site security, privacy and integrity.

    Below is a timeline of key developments since the start of 2022:

    • June 22, 2022: Meta considers eliminating its COVID-19 misinformation policies, asking its oversight board to advise the company on whether to maintain its policies against dangerous COVID-19 misinformation, claiming that “the COVID-19 situation has evolved.” 
    • July 26, 2022: Meta's oversight board accepts the company’s request to revise its COVID-19 misinformation policy, kicking off its advisory process and requesting public comments to inform its recommendations. (The oversight board’s policy advisory opinions are not binding; they require only that Meta provide a public response and follow-up actions.) 
    • November 9, 2022: Meta announces that it will eliminate more than 11,000 jobs, or 13% of its workforce, choosing to sink more money into its efforts to build the “metaverse.”
    • January 17, 2023: The Washington Post reports that House January 6 committee investigators found — but ultimately did not publish — mountains of evidence demonstrating that social media companies “like Facebook and Twitter” provided “megaphones” for right-wing extremists ahead of the Capitol insurrection and refused to enforce their own content moderation policies out of fear of conservative backlash.
    • February 9, 2023: Meta reinstates Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.
    • March 14, 2023: Meta announces a second round of mass layoffs, cutting another 10,000 people from its workforce including those focused on site security, privacy, and integrity.
    • March 17, 2023: Trump posts on Facebook for the first time since his account was reinstated.
    • March 30, 2023: After news broke that a Manhattan grand jury had voted to indict Trump for paying hush money to Stormy Daniels, Trump posts a full copy of his misinformation-filled statement to his newly reinstated Facebook page
    • June 4, 2023: Instagram reinstates the account of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is one of the most prominent anti-vaccine figures in the U.S. Kennedy was banned from the platform in 2021 for violating its COVID-19 misinformation policies, but since “he is now an active candidate for president of the United States,” Meta decided to reinstate his account. Kennedy had been pressuring the platform to do so on Twitter in the days leading up to the decision. Right-wing media, meanwhile, have propped up his candidacy.
    • July 5, 2023: Meta launches Threads in July — without the third-party fact-checking program it has for Facebook and Instagram. Despite CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s stated wishes for the app to be “friendly,” right-wing and fringe figures quickly join the platform and begin posting slurs and other forms of hate speech in an attempt to challenge Meta’s content moderation practices. Hate speech and misinformation continues to proliferate on the platform in the weeks after the launch, including from Russian and Chinese state media, which Meta initially fails to properly label
    • July 11, 2023: Following the Threads launch, Clegg says that the company plans to rely on “greater use of individual controls” rather than platform-wide moderation. Clegg says that he hopes “over time we’ll have less of a discussion about what our big crude algorithmic choices are and more about whether you guys feel that the individual controls we’re giving you on Threads feel meaningful to you.” 
    • August 1, 2023: Rather than compensate news organizations after the passage of Canada’s Online News Act, Meta announces it has “begun the process of” blocking Canadians’ access to news content. According to the Canadian government, the law was established to ensure “fair revenue sharing between digital platforms and news outlets.” But rather than compensate news organizations as the new law requires, Meta decides to shut down the country’s access to them instead. This means that Canadians will no longer be able to view news links and content posted on Meta's platforms. 
    • August 2, 2023: In August, civil society and human rights groups that participate in Meta’s “Trusted Partners” program accuse the company of ignoring their reports on dangerous content. The program includes 465 groups which help alert the company to “dangerous and harmful content such as death threats, hacked accounts, and incitement to violence” on Facebook and Instagram. Meta has promoted the program as a “key part” of its user safety efforts, but participating organizations claim that the company has left it “significantly underresourced, understaffed, and allegedly prone to ‘operational failures.’” 
    • August 25, 2023: Meta reportedly begins allowing users to opt out of part of its fact-checking program, which aims to “fight the spread of misinformation and provide people with more reliable information.” Previously, Meta automatically limited visibility of fact-checked content in feeds, but users can now opt out of that measure intended to reduce misinformation on the platform. 
    • August 29, 2023: Meta rejects a recommendation from its oversight board to suspend the former Cambodian prime minister from its platforms after he uploaded a video that “included violent threats from the then-prime minister toward his political opponents.” The Hill reports that the former prime minister “had preemptively removed his Facebook page after the Oversight Board recommendation in June, and banished Facebook representatives from operating in the country.”
    • August 30, 2023: Meta overhauls its “Dangerous Organizations and Individuals” policy, suggesting in an internal memo that it will allow more references to the organizations and individuals on Meta’s “blacklist,” but will not allow their “glorification.” UCLA professor Ángel Díaz, an expert on social media content policy, told The Intercept that “Tier 3 groups, which appear to be largely made up of right-wing militia groups or conspiracy networks like QAnon, are not subject to bans on glorification.” Media Matters has repeatedly found that such groups are actively spreading hate and misinformation on Meta’s platforms. 
    • August 31, 2023: Nearly two months after launching Threads, Meta adds a search function, but it blocks users from searching for content about COVID-19 and vaccines — supposedly deeming it “potentially sensitive content.” Public health workers criticize the company’s decision, noting that “its timing was especially poor” as case numbers climb once again. 
    • September 21, 2023: Meta announces that it’s going to let Facebook users create multiple profiles, which could allow for the proliferation of fake profiles. The company says that users will now be able to have up to five personal profiles that they can switch between without logging out. According to Meta, “Whether you’re new to Facebook or a longtime user, you may want to keep your personal and professional relationships separate, or you may want to keep one profile tied to a community you’re a part of and another profile just for friends.” As of October 11, the platform’s help center still claims that “Facebook is a community where people use their authentic identities” and “it's against the Facebook Community Standards to maintain more than one personal account.”
  • YouTube reverts to old policies and will now allow election misinformation

  • In March, YouTube restored Trump’s ability to upload new content to the platform and in early June, the platform announced that it will reverse its policy against election misinformation and no longer remove content that “advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches occurred in the 2020 and other past US Presidential elections.” While Trump was seemingly avoiding livestreaming on YouTube to avoid being banned for violating the platform’s election policies, he may use the feature now that his election lies will be tolerated. 

    Right-wing media figures and outlets have credited Twitter and owner Elon Musk for “moving the needle” around election misinformation, implying that his actions influenced YouTube’s decision.

    Here’s a timeline of key developments since the start of 2022:

    • November 5, 2022: The New York Times reports that YouTube “may have misinformation blind spots” and that its election integrity policy prohibits election misinformation only during presidential elections, not during midterm elections. In the Times piece, Media Matters President Angelo Carusone described the policy as tantamount to building “a sprinkler system after the building is on fire.” 
    • January 20, 2023: Google CEO Sundar Pichai announces that parent company Alphabet will be laying off 12,000 employees, or 6% of the company’s global workforce. This includes more than 100 YouTube employees.
    • February 1, 2023: YouTube begins sharing ad revenue with Shorts creators on the platform, providing a new form of monetization. This means right-wing influencers who litter the platform with anti-LGBTQ vitriol, racist and misogynistic rhetoric, and COVID-19 misinformation may stand to gain financially from their harmful content.
    • March 17, 2023: YouTube announces that it will be immediately lifting Trump’s suspension on the platform and allowing him to upload new content. Though the platform claims that it “carefully evaluated the continued risk of real-world violence,” the decision fails to account for Trump’s propensity to push extreme rhetoric and the platform’s weak misinformation policies and haphazard enforcement. 
    • June 2, 2023: YouTube reverses its policy to allow 2020 election lies, claiming: “Two years, tens of thousands of video removals, and one election cycle later, we recognized it was time to reevaluate the effects of this policy in today's changed landscape. … With that in mind, and with 2024 campaigns well underway, we will stop removing content that advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches occurred in the 2020 and other past US Presidential elections." Right-wing media celebrate the decision.
    • August 29, 2023: YouTube begins allowing creators to take an “educational training course” to reduce the number of policy violation warnings attached to their accounts, making it less likely for repeat violators to see their channels “terminated” from the platform. YouTube says that “more than 80% of creators who receive a warning never violate its policies again,” and that “this new policy came about because creators told YouTube they wanted more resources to better understand the rules.” Serial YouTube policy violator Steven Crowder quickly mocked the change, livestreaming on Rumble — the far-right YouTube alternative — with a video titled “Re-Education Camp: Crowder FORCED to Take YouTube's WOKE Course LIVE!”
  • Twitter has devolved into a dysfunctional cesspool of conspiracy theories and bigotry, losing half of its advertising revenue since Musk took over in October 2022

  • Elon Musk’s leadership has plunged Twitter into chaos, with his misguidedfree speechcrusade transforming the platform into an engine of radicalization and a steady source of harmful content. He had driven away half the site’s top 100 advertisers after a month as CEO and recently admitted to having reduced its revenue by half. 

    The platform now has minimal content moderation, minimal staff, and paid (and unreliable) verification. Musk has caved to authoritarian governments and reinstated previously banned accounts of extremists (including Trump, who has yet to tweet). 

    A timeline of key developments since the start of 2022:

    • April 4, 2022: News breaks that Elon Musk had purchased a 9.2% stake in Twitter, making him the largest shareholder.
    • April 5, 2022: Twitter's then-CEO Parag Agrawal announces that Musk has been given a seat on Twitter’s board, prompting right-wing media to ask Musk to end Twitter's nonexistent censorship and bring Trump back to the platform.
    • April 10, 2022: Musk decides not to join Twitter’s board.
    • April 14, 2022: Musk offers to buy Twitter for about $44 billion.
    • July 22, 2022: A Twitter spokesperson confirms that the targeted use of “groomer” as a slur against another user “based on their perceived membership in a protected category” violates the platform’s hate speech policies. They further identified its use “in context of discussion of gender identity” as prohibited under Twitter’s Hateful Conduct policy. (Enforcement was extremely uneven and use of the term skyrocketed after Musk acquired the platform.)
    • October 3, 2022: Musk offers to buy Twitter at the original share price of $44 billion. Right-wing media celebrate.
    • October 27, 2022: Musk completes the $44 billion deal and takes control of Twitter, tweeting “the bird is freed” after firing former Twitter executives and sending out an email to staff saying that layoffs were set to begin. Per a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Musk also dismisses Twitter’s board, making himself the sole leader. Previously banned Twitter users celebrate, and QAnon supporters make clear that they see the takeover as a green light to rejoin the platform.
    • October 28, 2022: Musk flexes his new power by issuing a directive, without any context or rationale, to change the page logged-out users see when they go to to the “explore” page, which shows trending tweets and news stories, rather than a sign-up form. 
    • November 3 and 4, 2022: Twitter undertakes mass layoffs, firing over 3,000 people or around 50% of Twitter’s workforce including the entire ethical-AI team and most of the company’s communications team.
    • November 6, 2022: Reportedly without informing the policy team, Musk tweets, “Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” after some users mimicked Musk’s account. 
    • November 7, 2022: Musk tweets out a link to “The Twitter Rules” with the caption “Twitter rules will evolve over time, but they’re currently the following.” This leads to confusion about whether misinformation violates Twitter’s policies. (The platform has a separate page on Twitter’s Help Center website that addresses misleading information.) 
    • November 9, 2022: Twitter launches Twitter Blue, which asks users to pay for a blue verification check mark for $7.99 per month. QAnon influencers use the service to try to regain a foothold on the platform, and other right-wing extremists begin using their newly purchased check marks to spread hate.
    • November 10, 2022: Six Twitter executives resign: Yoel Roth (head of moderation and safety), Lea Kissner (chief information security officer), Marianne Fogarty (chief compliance officer), Kathleen Pacini (head of human resources and talent management), Damien Kieran (chief privacy officer), and John Debay (director of software engineering). Several other members of the site’s privacy and security unit resign as well, prompting “a rare warning from the Federal Trade Commission.”
    • November 11, 2022: Just days after Twitter Blue launched and caused mayhem — with subscribers impersonating numerous users and brands — Musk reportedly pauses the program, but allows users already subscribed, including extremists, to keep their subscriptions. 
    • November 12, 2022: Twitter undertakes a second wave of mass layoffs, impacting about 4,400 contractors. 
    • November 14, 2022: Musk fires about a dozen employees — including multiple longtime Twitter engineers — seemingly for criticizing him. 
    • November 15, 2022: Musk fires roughly two dozen more employees, seemingly for expressing sympathy for those fired the day before.
    • November 16, 2022: Musk sends a midnight email ultimatum for remaining Twitter employees: either commit to being “extremely hardcore” or quit and receive three months of severance pay. Reuters reports that hundreds of employees resigned following this email.
    • November 18, 2022: Musk tweets, “Freedom Fridays … ,” seemingly to announce the beginning of reinstatements of formerly banned accounts, starting with comedian Kathy Griffin, The Daily Wire’s Jordan Peterson, and conservative satire site The Babylon Bee.
    • November 19, 2022: After launching a poll about whether Twitter should reinstate Trump’s account — which was permanently suspended following the January 6 Capitol insurrection “due to the risk of further incitement of violence” — Musk tweets, “The people have spoken. Trump will be reinstated.” 
    • November 24, 2022: After Musk posts another poll, Twitter begins granting “amnesty” to previously suspended accounts that had “not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam.” 
    • November 29, 2022: Twitter stops enforcing its COVID-19 misinformation policies, providing no further details beyond a note on its site reading, “Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy.”
    • December 12, 2022: Twitter Blue relaunches, with the stipulation that accounts will be reviewed before getting a blue check. Additionally, gold checks are rolled out for some businesses. Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council is also disbanded because, according to an email obtained by CNN, Twitter is “reevaluating how best to bring external insights into our product and policy development work. As part of this process, we have decided that the Trust and Safety Council is not the best structure to do this.” The dissolution of the council comes less than an hour before members were scheduled to meet with Twitter executives, according to The Washington Post. 
    • December 14, 2022: Twitter launches a new policy that users “may not publish or post other people's private information without their express authorization and permission. We also prohibit threatening to expose private information or incentivizing others to do so.” The new policy is used as justification to ban an account, @ElonJet, that tracked the location of Musk’s private jet, and those of journalists whom Musk accused of “doxxing” him by reporting on the @ElonJet account. 
    • December 16, 2022: Musk briefly disables the Twitter Spaces feature after some of the suspended journalists were still able to access the feature and press him about why they were targeted. Twitter also announces that it is reinstating a number of accounts “where permanent suspension was a disproportionate action for breaking Twitter rules.”
    • December 17, 2022: Musk reinstates most of the journalists he accused of “doxxing” him after issuing a poll that asked if they should be brought back to the platform. Later that day, Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz is suspended for allegedly violating a policy that was not yet introduced. Twitter also removes the feature that showed from which type of device a tweet was sent.
    • December 18, 2022: Twitter announces — and then revokes — a policy that prohibited users from promoting other social media platforms. Later in the day, Lorenz is reinstated and Twitter Safety launches a poll to see if an altered version of this policy should be reintroduced.
    • January 3, 2023: Musk announces that he will revoke Twitter’s years-old policy against political and issue-based advertisements. Politico later reports that in the two months following that reversal, no paid political ads were taken out on the platform.
    • February 3, 2023: Journalist Matt Navarra confirms that corporate Twitter accounts would have to pay $1,000 a month to keep their previously free verification status, leading a number of media organizations to reject the new verification scheme. 
    • February 8, 2023: Musk oversees the expansion of a tweet’s size limit from 280 up to 4,000 characters for Twitter Blue subscribers to end the practice of posting screenshots of longer statements, which he called an “absurdity.” Upon implementation, users report that Twitter’s main functions had crashed, leaving them unable to tweet, retweet, follow users, or send direct messages. 
    • February 9, 2023: Following an announcement that Twitter would end free access to its application programming interface (API), journalists, researchers, advertisers, and users raise concerns over the ramifications that removing API access would have on user experience, including important and potentially lifesaving public service announcements. Despite Twitter delaying when access to API would be rescinded, multiple organizations are still unable to provide automated updates about issues including weather and transportation alerts.
    • February 14, 2023: After Musk’s own Super Bowl tweet earns lower engagement than President Joe Biden’s, he directs engineers to artificially inflate his presence on users' feeds to correct an “engagement issue.” This comes after Musk reportedly fired top engineers because of his declining views and supposedly threatened to fire others unless they would show more people his tweets.
    • February 8, 2023: Musk oversees the expansion of a tweet’s size limit from 280 up to 4,000 characters for Twitter Blue subscribers to end the practice of posting screenshots of longer statements, which he called an “absurdity.” Upon implementation, users report that Twitter’s main functions had crashed, leaving them unable to tweet, retweet, follow users, or send direct messages. 
    • March 10, 2023: After stating that it would no longer be granting free access to Twitter’s application programming interface on February 2, Musk announces that users of Twitter’s then-free API service would have to pay $2.5 million per year to retain full access.
    • April 2, 2023: After learning that The New York Times would not pay to keep its verification status, Musk reportedly orders that Twitter engineers remove the paper’s verification mark. Musk's decision to target the Times, one of Twitter's largest accounts, is seemingly made in response to prodding by a meme account and resulted in the Times operating several accounts under conflicting verification standards simultaneously.
    • April 4, 2023: Musk changes Twitter’s corporate identity to “X Corp.” as part of his still-unclear plan to have the social media platform serve as a hub for crypto exchanges, stock trading, and social media.
    • April 5, 2023: Musk’s Twitter falsely brands NPR and BBC accounts as “state-affiliated media” and “government-funded media,” respectively, leading to NPR leaving the platform and the BBC having its designation removed after significant protest.
    • April 6, 2023: Amid Musk’s personal feud with the newsletter site Substack, Twitter begins limiting accounts from engaging with tweets featuring links to Substack
    • April 17, 2023: After quietly removing its hate speech policy against the “targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals,” Twitter announces that it will no longer remove certain tweets that “potentially” violate its rules against hateful conduct. Instead, it will merely apply warning labels to such tweets.
    • April 20, 2023: Twitter begins removing blue check verification badges from the profiles of celebrities, news outlets, and other high-profile accounts across the platform, making it difficult for users to determine which sources are reputable. As those legacy blue checks expired, Twitter continues to sell verification badges to just about anyone willing to pay a monthly fee. A couple of celebrities, including LeBron James who said he would not pay for Twitter Blue, receive a “complimentary subscription … on behalf of Elon Musk.”
    • May 9, 2023: Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson announces that he plans to relaunch his show on Twitter, sending a shockwave through the U.S. political and media class.
    • May 12, 2023: A day after proclaiming that a new Twitter CEO would be starting in roughly six weeks, Musk announces Linda Yaccarino would be filling the role. Hours earlier, NBCUniversal had announced that Yaccarino, formerly the company’s chairman for Global Advertising and Partnerships, was leaving “effective immediately.” Musk continues to use the platform to push dangerous conspiracy theories and racist dog whistles.
    • May 24, 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announces his 2024 GOP presidential campaign during a disastrous Twitter Spaces event with Musk and right-wing investor David Sacks.
    • June 5, 2023: Yaccarino officially becomes CEO, after lawyers for the company admitted in a June 1 federal court filing that her hiring “will not result in a different content-moderation strategy” — contradicting the notion that the new CEO will solve the platform’s advertising issues.
    • June 21, 2023: Musk tweets a new Twitter policy, claiming that “cis” or “cisgender” are “considered slurs on the platform,” and that “Repeated, targeted harassment against any account will cause the harassing accounts to receive, at minimum, temporary suspensions.” The new policy comes as Musk has repeatedly claimed in response to questions about moderation of hateful content that he is adamant about defending free speech.
    • July 13, 2023: Twitter launches its ad revenue sharing program, further incentivizing extreme right-wing misinformers and bad actors on the platform by directly paying them a share “for ads that appear in their reply threads.” A Media Matters review found that 9 right-wing figures known for spreading misinformation and extremism have already collectively earned over $80,000. This program launch means that the platform’s advertisers are funding the misinformation, baseless conspiracy theories, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, and other harmful content from these figures. 
    • July 23, 2023: Musk and Yaccarino rebrand Twitter as X. Musk, who bought Twitter with a company called X Corp. as “an accelerant to creating X, the everything app,” changes the platform’s logo from a blue bird to a black and white “X,” claims tweets should instead be called “x’s,” and redirects to Twitter’s domain. Yaccarino confirms the rebranding, posting that “we’ve already started to see X take shape over the past 8 months through our rapid feature launches, but we’re just getting started.” 
    • July 26, 2023: Musk caves to pressure from right-wing accounts and reinstates an X account that shared a screenshot from a child sexual abuse video, undermining the platform's “zero-tolerance” child sexual exploitation policy. The account belongs to Dom Lucre, a far-right figure known for pushing the “Pizzagate” and QAnon conspiracy theories who had been banned from the platform after posting an image of child sexual abuse while pushing a baseless conspiracy theory that the Obamas had murdered their former personal chef. Shortly after his reinstatement, Lucre shares that his posts earned him payments from X as part of its ad revenue sharing program. 
    • July 29, 2023: Musk posts a meme with images of rainbows, hearts, and dolphins, that reads “how it feels to spread misinformation.” 
    • July 29, 2023: X reinstates the account of Ye, the antisemitic rapper formerly known as Kanye West. Ye had been banned from the platform after a “barrage of antisemitic tweets that included an image of a swastika intertwined with a Star of David.”
    • August 24, 2023: After being banned from the platform for inciting violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, Trump posts for the first time on X since Musk reinstated his account in November 2022. In his first post, the disgraced former president shares an image of his mug shot taken in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was booked on 13 state counts related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election in the state, and a link to his 2024 presidential campaign website. 
    • August 29, 2023: X announces that it will allow political advertisements on the platform again, after they were banned in 2019. Twitter previously restricted “political and issue advertising in 2019 amid concerns that politicians could seek to target users with false or misleading information.” In its announcement, X says that it is updating its civic integrity policy ahead of 2024, but CNN notes that the supposed updated practices of adding labels to posts that violate policies “are not all that different from how the platform handled misinformation related to elections under its previous leadership.”
    • August 30, 2023: After the Anti-Defamation League’s CEO says he had “a very frank + productive conversation” with Yaccarino about antisemitism on the platform, Musk participates in a far-right campaign to “#BanTheADL.” In response to ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt’s post about his discussion with Yaccarino “to address hate effectively on the platform,” far-right users call for X to “#BanTheADL,” with X Premium subscribers posting the anti-ADL hashtag on the platform at least 37,471 times between September 4 and 13. Musk, meanwhile, helps spread these attacks from far-right figures and engages with their posts containing the hashtag. On September 4, Musk posts that “to clear our platform's name on the matter of anti-Semitism, it looks like we have no choice but to file a defamation lawsuit against the Anti-Defamation League ... oh the irony!” 
    • September 7, 2023: The Information reports that another brand safety head, Elyana Thierry, resigned as X struggles to retain advertisers. Thierry had just assumed the role after the previous head of brand safety resigned in June. 
    • September 8, 2023: X updates its terms of service to ban crawling and scraping, thwarting researchers’ ability to study the platform and undermining its transparency. This change, which Musk justifies as a way to stop companies from using platform data to train AI models, comes shortly after X’s updated privacy policy revealed plans to expand collection of users’ biometric data as well as job and school history, and to use the collected user data to train its own AI models
    • September 8, 2023: Mashable reports that “multiple users on X have recently reported advertisements showing up on their feed without any disclosure or labeling.” The director of policy and partnerships at Check My Ads, an ad tech watchdog, told Mashable, “The lack of labeling misleads consumers and flies in the face of FTC’s guidelines on deceptively formatted ads. As advertisers grapple with just how brand unsafe Twitter has become, this is yet another potentially huge liability for every brand that advertises on Twitter.” 
    • September 8, 2023: Musk’s X Corp. sues the state of California for its new transparency law, which requires social media companies to publish their policies for policing disinformation, harassment, hate speech, and extremism. X claims “the law’s ‘true intent’ was to pressure social media companies into eliminating content the state found objectionable,” violating its constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment. 
    • September 10, 2023: X is allegedly limiting users’ access to The New York Times on its platform. Semafor reports that since late July, “engagement on X posts linking to the New York Times has dropped dramatically,” but the decline “is not reflected in links to similar news organizations including CNN, the Washington Post, and the BBC, according to NewsWhip’s data on 300,000 influential users of X.” 
    • September 26, 2023: Researchers report that X disabled a feature for users to report electoral misinformation on the platform. According to the researchers, the platform removed the “politics” category from the drop-down menu that appears when users try to report a post they consider misleading, raising concerns ahead of major elections. The organization also noted that this feature appeared to be disabled “in every jurisdiction but the European Union.” 
    • September 26, 2023: A report from the European Union finds X to have the highest ratio of disinformation posts of all large social media platforms. The EU subsequently issues a warning to Musk that the platform must comply with its new laws against fake news and Russian propaganda. 
    • September 27, 2023: The Information reports that X fired more staff dedicated to trust and safety workers — despite advertisers’ brand safety concerns and the platform’s issues with hate speech and misinformation. Insider notes that “While this layoff only affected a handful of people, five to 10, it was focused entirely on workers in trust and safety. Such workers are responsible for overseeing daily communications on Twitter, and mitigating the appearance and spread of toxic content, mainly so businesses feel comfortable advertising on the platform.” 
    • October 5, 2023: X removes headlines from appearing in posts linking to articles, seemingly to “optimize time spent on X” by preventing users from clicking into other sites. In August, Musk also claimed that removing headlines from article previews would be an “aesthetic improvement” — though skeptics point out that rather than being a result of aesthetics, “the new format could be part of a broader attempt by Musk to undermine news organizations’ reach on the social media platform.”
    • October 7, 2023: Following Hamas’ attacks on Israel, X fails spectacularly to stop the spread of misinformation on the platform, with verified X Premium subscribers earning millions of views on posts with misleading videos, a doctored photo, and other misinformation. The New York Times reports that Hamas is intentionally taking advantage of weak content moderation on X, seeding violent content in an apparent effort to “terrorize civilians.”