Elon Musk’s X, formerly called Twitter, disabled a feature that let users report misinformation about elections, a research organization said on Wednesday, throwing fresh concern about false claims spreading just before primary U.S. and Australian votes. The removal of the option may limit X’s ability to address political disinformation at a time when social media platforms are under pressure to curb electoral misinformation that has proliferated in recent years. It also comes less than three weeks before Australia holds its first referendum in a quarter century and 14 months ahead of the United States presidential election.
The move by X, which has faced criticism from activists and advertisers for not doing enough to prevent the spread of hate speech and other harmful content, was not announced by any public means. But a post by an organization that monitors online hate speech, the Center for Countering Digital Hate, on Wednesday cited evidence that X has shifted away from its commitment to tackling the issue.
In a series of tweets, the group accuses X of cutting corners to keep content clean and warned that this could lead to “more groupers, more hate, and no nuance.” It calls on Apple and Google to remove the app from their app stores, depriving X of crucial revenue as it struggles to turn around its business.
A post by X on Tuesday responded to the concerns by saying it was “removing an outdated UI.” It said it would continue to allow users to block accounts and use filters that limit what appears on their feeds. It also outlined plans to remove a feature that allows users to see the headline and description for news articles in a preview card when they click on a link.
That change, slated for the end of October, could make it harder for journalists and other users to find news from various sources. It will also cut the number of characters displayed in a preview card from 140 to 280.
In his Twitter posts, Musk has clarified that he views himself as a centrist, describing himself as “socially very liberal” and economically right of center. But his continued embrace of conspiracy theories and far-right ideological grievances is drawing concern, especially with the timing of this latest move.
It comes just as the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization, is tracking an uptick in bomb threats, swatting attacks against synagogues and other Jewish institutions, and dramatic levels of antisemitism in non-Jewish residential communities. The ADL says it has seen an increase in X posts referencing the group by its full name, including comments such as: “I can’t stand those groupers at the ADL.” It also warns of growing instances of hate speech and other harmful content. It also urges X to reinstate its previous commitment to removing content that violates free speech protections, which it has rebuffed.