Elon Musk to hire more moderators after explicit Taylor Swift deepfakes go viral


X is scrambling to remove deepfake explicit images of the singer Taylor Swift after they went viral on the social network – AP Photo/Ed Zurga

Elon Musk has launched a push to hire more moderators at X as the social media site grapples with a flood of explicit fake images of pop star Taylor Swift.

The company said it would hire 100 employees to tackle child abuse online, having cut thousands of staff since Mr Musk’s takeover in 2022.

X’s chief executive Linda Yaccarino, said the company would set up a new Trust and Safety Centre of Excellence in Austin, Texas, to take down illegal posts.

The announcement comes as X, formerly known as Twitter, scrambles to prevent the spread of sexually explicit false images of Ms Swift circulating on its platform.

On Monday, the company blocked all searches for “Taylor Swift” in an effort to stop people uncovering the deepfake images, which were created with artificial intelligence. It said last week it was “actively removing all identified images”.

Since his takeover of X, Mr Musk has cut the company’s headcount by more than 80pc and faced criticism for sacking members of its moderation and safety teams.

Linda Yaccarino,

Chief executive Linda Yaccarino said X will set up a new Trust and Safety Centre of Excellence to tackle illegal posts

Plans to hire more moderators come as Ms Yaccarino, who was appointed by Mr Musk to lead X last year, prepares to join other social media bosses at a US senate hearing this week. Bosses will be questioned over their efforts to tackle online predators.

Ms Yaccarino said: “In 2023, we made clear that our top priority was tackling [child sexual exploitation] online… we are now taking action on users that distribute this content”.

Joe Benarroch, the company’s head of operations, told Bloomberg this would include hiring 100 full time staff to take down child abuse posts and the criminals who spread them.

Ms Yaccarino said X had automated parts of its child abuse reporting system, leading it to take down more suspected illegal content than before Mr Musk’s takeover.

She said X had removed 12.4 million accounts for violating its child abuse policies, up from 2.3 million in 2022. The company also sent reports on 850,000 posts to a US agency for missing and exploited children in 2023, eight times the number it flagged a year earlier.

On Wednesday, US social media bosses will be grilled by senators over their efforts to tackle the spread of child sexual abuse material online. Ms Yaccarino will appear alongside Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, as well as executives from TikTok, Snapchat and Discord.

Announcing the hearing in November, Democratic senator Dick Durbin and Republican senator Lindsey Graham said: “We’ve known from the beginning that our efforts to protect children online would be met with hesitation from Big Tech. They finally are being forced to acknowledge their failures when it comes to protecting kids.”