Several European staffers working on a threat disruption team for the social platform, including senior manager Aaron Rodericks, have been fired this week, according to a report in the tech publication The Information that cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter. Site owner Elon Musk confirmed the termination of the team members on Wednesday.
Last month, Rodericks, a Canadian senior manager based in Ireland, posted on LinkedIn that he was looking to hire eight staffers ahead of more than 70 elections worldwide in 2024, to work on combating material that could undermine democracy. “If you have a passion for protecting the integrity of elections and civic events, X is certainly at the centre of the conversation!” he wrote. The new employees would work at one of several U.S. offices, or in Toronto, Dublin, or Singapore. X’s Safety team likewise announced that they were “expanding our safety and elections teams to focus on combating manipulation, surfacing inauthentic accounts and closely monitoring the platform for emerging threats.”
But Rodericks — whose law firm did not respond to multiple requests for comment on his apparent termination by X — never got the chance to build his team. The hiring notice attracted the notice of right-wing influencers including Chaya Raichik (a.k.a. Libs of TikTok) and Mike Benz, a former State Department official who at one point was angling for access to the so-called “Twitter Files,” internal communications that conservatives believe demonstrated collusion between the company and the U.S. government to censor conservative views and media.
“Is Yoel Roth gonna be hired to run this?” Raichik asked of the expanded election integrity team mentioned in X Safety’s update. Roth is the former head of Trust and Safety at Twitter, who resigned last November, then fled his home as Musk baselessly implied that Roth believed children should have access to explicit content and be able to have sex with adults, smears that sparked threats from anti-LGBTQ and QAnon extremists.
In a quote tweet, Benz replied to Raichik’s sarcastic question: “No, it’s being run by Yoel Roth’s former colleague, who still somehow works at X despite appearing to think Musk is a ‘f*cking dipshit’ — His name is Aaron Rodericks.” In the post, Benz shared screenshots of his many recent criticisms of Rodericks on the platform. In those tweets, Benz called Rodericks one of CEO Linda Yaccarino’s “censorship shills” and noted that Rodericks had apparently liked another user’s tweet using the aforementioned epithet to describe Musk.
Also in August, Benz claimed without evidence that Rodericks was “literally recruiting active [and] former CIA operatives to rig election discourse on X.” He fixated on the fact that Rodericks had cross-listed the jobs through DisinfoDocket, a service run by one person curating research about global influence operations that originated as a newsletter from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace — a think tank formerly headed by William J. Burns, who left the organization in 2021 to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency. As with Roth, the conspiracy theory activated an online harassment campaign against Rodericks.
Soon after, Rodericks was brought up for disciplinary action and temporarily suspended at X over allegedly liking tweets critical of Musk, Yaccarino, and X itself. As of last Friday, he had secured a Irish court injunction against these ongoing employment proceedings, which he called a “complete sham.” In a statement to the court, he said he’d received “a barrage of threatening and abusive messages” after posting the integrity team job openings from individuals wrongly convinced he was engaged in censorship and election-fixing on the platform. He also said the company took no action in light of the harassment.
On Wednesday, when reports emerged that Rodericks and others on his team had actually been fired, Musk went a step further and endorsed the conspiracist narrative that his own safety employees were actually a threat to the democratic process. Replying to an X news account’s tweet about the company cutting “half” the electoral integrity team, including Rodericks, Musk wrote, “Oh you mean the ‘Election Integrity’ Team that was undermining election integrity? Yeah, they’re gone.”
Beyond the unfounded accusations from conservatives who insist that pre-Musk Twitter systematically censored them and still harbors government agents or assets with that agenda, there is no indication that Rodericks was attempting to rig an election. Yet, since his takeover last year, Musk has found it convenient to endorse various fringe fantasies from the right and peddle his own misinformation as he sees fit. Given his gutting of moderation teams across the board, it’s no surprise that the few remaining employees tasked with guarding against political manipulation would also get the axe.
What’s more, Musk clearly relishes the approval he receives for firing staffers targeted by the right-wing outrage machine. “Musk cleaning house,” wrote one fan in response to the termination of Rodericks and his subordinates. And Musk himself tweeted a saluting emoji in response to Benz taking a victory lap once Rodericks had been ousted, perhaps mocking the use of the symbol by the many Twitter employees he purged from the company upon acquiring it. It looks as though even when you’re the boss, you still take orders from someone else.