New layoffs at Twitter hit trust and safety workers even as advertisers worry about toxic speech

  • Several trust and safety workers at Twitter, or X, were laid off earlier this month.
  • Such workers are supposed to oversee and mitigate toxic content, keeping advertisers happy.
  • The team is now a small fraction of its size prior to Elon Musk’s takeover.

Elon Musk recently laid off more Twitter employees responsible for the platform’s trust and safety efforts, roles that are typically critical in keeping a social media platform safe for advertisers.

According to two people familiar with the company, the layoffs occurred in the first week of September, and were one of the first targeted layoffs since he reduced operations earlier this year. While this layoff only affected five to ten people, it was entirely focused on workers in trust and safety. Such employees are in charge of monitoring daily Twitter communications and mitigating the appearance and spread of toxic content, primarily so that businesses feel comfortable advertising on the platform. As Musk courted controversy, conspiracy, and antisemitism, the advertising business on Twitter, renamed X, fell by more than half, and usage fell.

Prior to Musk’s takeover, full-time trust and safety employees worked across the company, in product, legal, and engineering, and numbered around 230 people, with hundreds more doing contract work like content moderation. Soon after, they were almost entirely let go. According to Insider, Twitter’s trust and safety team had no engineers and no agents by mid-November, leaving the team primarily in the hands of administrative staff.

In January, the team was reduced even further. Musk had two trust and safety leaders, both of whom left the company after disagreements with Musk and were not replaced as he reduced headcount to just over 1,000 people.

According to those familiar, the team is now a fraction of its original size. According to one of the sources, the trust and safety team currently has about 20 full-time employees, some of whom were contract workers who were promoted to full-time roles at the company over the summer, not long after Linda Yaccarino took over as Twitter’s CEO. The employees are primarily involved in content moderation, according to the person familiar, with a few members of the team working in legal or policy. Engineering needs are handled by any of the roughly 500 engineers left at X, the majority of whom have been working across the company for months.

Requests for comment were not returned by a company spokesperson.

Although the X trust and safety team had grown slightly prior to the latest round of layoffs and is technically overseen by Yaccarino and Musk, the platform’s problems far outweigh the ability of a team with few hands and seemingly little power. Musk reinstated numerous accounts of neo-Nazi users with large followings, including one that posted images of children being exploited. After blaming the Anti-Defamation League, an anti-hate non-profit, for his advertising problems, he sparked a new wave of antisemitism on the platform.

Meanwhile, in recent months, Musk and Yaccarino have stated that “99%” of the content on X is “healthy.” Insider previously linked that claim to a single case study conducted by Sprinklr, a management software company, which examined 500,000 tweets between January and February. The study discovered that 15% of those tweets contained one of 300 English slurs from a list provided by Twitter, despite the fact that such tweets received less engagement than non-slur tweets. The study makes no claim that 99% of the content on the platform is healthy.

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