During today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing focused on kids’ online safety, X CEO Linda Yaccarino downplayed the social network’s reach among younger users, when she noted that less than 1% of the app’s U.S. users were teens ages 13 through 17. The executive put that number in context by also sharing that there were 90 million X users in the U.S. — a drop from its reported 95.4 million estimated users as of January 2023, according to data from Statista.
When Elon Musk acquired Twitter, which has since rebranded as X, the U.S. was its largest market, ahead of Japan, India, Brazil and others. Speaking at an event last fall, Musk claimed the network overall had grown to 550 million monthly active users, though it wasn’t clear if his calculations included fake accounts, like bots and spammers.
Though Musk hadn’t broken down X usage by market, at the time, Yaccarino last month indicated that X’s user base overall was growing, noting that as of December 7, 2023, more than 10 million people had already signed up for X during the month.
But her figures shared with the U.S. Senate today suggest that X may be facing a slight year-over-year decline in the U.S., assuming the 2023 market estimates were accurate. (Statista noted they were based on addressable ad audiences and were provided by DataReportal.) A decline would align with market expectations, as a Pew Research study published in July 2023 found that a quarter of Twitter users said they were unlikely to be on the site in a year’s time. Though Twitter, now X, has remained stickier than first thought, it has been facing a number of new competitors, including the decentralized network Mastodon, Bluesky and Instagram Threads, among others. Third-party data also indicated that X usage had dropped during Musk’s first year of ownership, Axios reported in October.
Despite the fact that X has come under fire for failing to take adequate measures to block CSAM (child sex abuse material) on its platform in markets including the EU and Australia, has been sued by CSAM victims and last year unblocked the account of a user who had posted CSAM imagery, the company largely escaped deeper questions about its plans to combat CSAM during today’s hearing. The lawmakers also didn’t reference the recent Taylor Swift deepfake porn debacle, even though the news had reached the White House.
In addition to downplaying X’s reach among young people, Yaccarino also distanced the company from its predecessor, Twitter, by calling X “a 14-month-old company” that has “reprioritized child protection and safety measures.” She added that X has “just begun to talk about and discuss how we can enhance those [measures] with parental controls.”
Timed alongside the hearing, the company shared that it suspended 12.4 million user accounts for violating its CSE (child sexual exploitation) policies in 2023, up from the 2.3 million accounts removed by Twitter in 2022. It also sent 850,000 reports to NCMEC (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children), eight times more than before Musk’s acquisition.
Those figures, of course, can be viewed in different ways — either that X has increased enforcement, as it wants people to believe, or that CSAM-related activity itself has increased on X, and an increase in the number of reports has followed.
Also during the hearing, Yaccarino answered a question about how many content moderators were on staff by saying that X had 2,300 people “all over the world.” That’s more than the number of X employees. (After Musk’s acquisition, 80% of its workforce of 7,500 was laid off or quit, including most of the trust and safety team.) X recently said that it was planning to build back up its trust and safety teams by hiring 100 full-time moderators in Austin, Texas.
In an email response, a rep for X said it does have 2,300 people, as Yaccarino said, but they are a combination of full-time employees and full-time contractors.