Elon Musk created a safety mess on X. CEO Linda Yaccarino is using it to cancel appearances.

X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, descended into chaos over the weekend as disinformation permeated the social media site around the ongoing attacks and bombings in Israel and Palestine.

Linda Yaccarino, the CEO of X, claimed on Monday night that the ongoing situation on the platform requires her to cancel an upcoming conference appearance to “remain fully focused on X platform safety.”

This cancellation comes just after Yaccarino’s disastrous appearance at another tech conference, which has been panned by critics and supporters alike. For context, one of the biggest sources of disinformation on the platform over the weekend came from her boss and X’s owner, Elon Musk.

X spreads disinformation during a crucial time

On Saturday, as news spread of the group Hamas launching widespread attacks on Israel, X was quickly put to the test. 

While Musk officially acquired the platform then known as Twitter nearly one year ago, a breaking global event of this scale had yet to unfold under his ownership. Twitter has long been known as the place for real-time information on current events. It’s precisely the reason wh​​y the platform has historically been so popular with journalists and the media — two groups Musk has been exceedingly hostile with since taking over.

X failed the test. Disinformation, propaganda, and other falsehoods quickly spread on the platform. While these have always been issues for social media platforms to contend with, changes that Musk specifically had made to X over the past year amplified this content.

For example, many of the biggest spreaders of fake videos and false information were subscribers to X Premium, Musk’s paid-subscription service, formerly known as Twitter Blue. Musk’s idea to give anyone who pays $8 per month a blue checkmark, which traditionally identified a notable user with a verifiable identity, gave these users legitimacy. 

Even worse, these blue checkmark X Premium subscribers are provided with an algorithm boost, further pushing the disinformation they share into users’ feeds, where the posts would wrack up tens of thousands of shares and likes. And, due to the recent launch of the creator monetization program, which rewards X Premium subscribers with real-life money for viral content, many of these disinformation spreaders were incentivized to to post the most incendiary fake content to get paid.

Elon Musk himself endorses fake news spreaders

But the problem wasn’t just with the platform and how Musk decides how it works.

“Follow the war in real-time, @WarMonitors & @sentdefender are good,” Musk posted on Saturday, recommending his more than 150 million followers check out two X users who were posting constantly about the events unfolding that day.

Problem is, those two X accounts Musk endorsed have a history of posting false information and fake AI-generated content. The accounts, both subscribing to X Premium and being paid by the platform monetization program to generate views, do not verify information and just repost what they find elsewhere on the platform.

Making matters even worse, each account was also outed as having shared bigoted views. The WarMonitors account had a history of tweeting antisemitic posts. The OSINTdefender account was posting dehumanizing remarks about innocent Palestinian civilians.

Musk did eventually delete his endorsement post after getting into an argument with one of the accounts regarding the bias in their posts.

Linda Yaccarino’s event cancellation

On Monday night, Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal shared a statement that X provided to the outlet regarding its upcoming Tech Live conference next week.

“Linda Yaccarino will be unable to attend the WSJ Tech Live conference next week,” reads the statement from X. “With the global crisis unfolding, Linda and her team must remain fully focused on X platform safety.”

It’s completely plausible that a company executive would have to cancel an appearance at an event due to previously unforeseen circumstances. However, there are other factors to consider as well.

Interestingly, Yaccarino’s cancellation comes just weeks following her critically panned appearance at Vox Media’s Code 2023 event. At the event, Yaccarino appeared thrown off by a last-minute addition of the company’s former head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, focusing on addressing his interview earlier in the day. During the interview, Yaccarino also drew unwanted laughs when asking who wouldn’t want to work alongside Musk and seemingly unveiled that the X app was not on her mobile device’s home screen.

As previously laid out, Musk is the cause of most of the “X platform safety” issues that Yaccarino claims to need to focus on. These issues have seeped directly into the engineering and product at X — the two teams at the company that Musk still oversees and leads. It’s unclear what Yaccarino’s role would entail her to do other than perhaps guide brands and other advertisers in running ads around these issues, which of course doesn’t solve the issues at hand at all.

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