• Explicit, ai-generated pictures of Taylor Swift went viral on X and other social media platforms
  • Some fans and media outlets blame Elon Musk for the fake photos’ spread
  • Musk hasn’t changed X (formerly Twitter’s) ability to monitor content — just some of their content rules
  • At least two X policies prohibit people from posting explicit deepfakes

Taylor Swift made headlines again today — this time as the latest celebrity victim of deepfake porn.

Several high-profile media covering the outlets imply Elon Musk enabled the musicians’ victimization.

Perplexed? You and me both. Let’s break it down.


Explicit, AI-generated images of the musician went viral on X (formerly Twitter) yesterday, with posts reportedly getting as many as 47 million views before being removed.

Most Swift fans expressed outrage over the fake photos — as they should. Manipulating someone’s likeness to humiliate them is an unacceptable violation of humans’ dignity and value.

But many also blamed X for the deepfakes’ proliferation, arguing the platform failed to filter the content because of its controversial owner, Elon Musk’s, commitment to free speech.

The Claims

Media outlets jumped on the Musk angle.

“The images of Swift spread widely on X, which dismantled much of its moderation shortly after Elon Musk took over the platform,” The Washington Post wrote.

“X has seen an increase in problematic content including harassment, disinformation and hate speech since Elon Musk bought the service in 2022. He has loosened the website’s content rules and fired, laid off or accepted the resignations of staff members who worked to remove such content,” The New York Times seconded.

“The responsibility of preventing fake images from spreading often falls to social platforms,” The Verge explained, “something that can be difficult to do under the best of circumstances and even harder for a company like X that has hollowed out its moderation capabilities.”

The Truth

The Post and the Verge, in particular, make it seem as though Musk inhibited the platform’s ability to find potentially offensive posts.

In reality, Musk changed Twitter’s thresholds and bureaucracy around content moderation by:

  • Reinstating Twitter accounts that hadn’t broken the law or engaged in “egregious spam.”
  • Breaking up the company’s Trust and Safety Council, which had brought together third-party experts of different points of view to weight in on content moderation standards.
  • Refusing to censor potentially inflammatory (as opposed to outlawed)

Whether or not you agree with these business decisions, X’s abilities to identify content violating their policies hasn’t changed — if not grown more robust. Musk relied more heavily on content monitoring algorithms after he bought the company.

What’s more, X’s policies explicitly prohibit content like the deepfakes of Swift.

The company’s synthetic and manipulated media policy, last updated in April, states people “may not share synthetic, manipulated, or out-of-context media that may deceive or confuse people and lead to harm.”

The rules outlaw:

  • “Media that is significantly and deceptively altered, manipulated or fabricated;
  • “Media that is shared in a deceptive manner with false context;
  • “Media likely to … cause serious harm.”

A statement from the company posted last night further reminded users of the platform’s zero-tolerance policy toward posting non-consensual nudity, another existing X policy preventing the spread of deepfakes.


Shortly after Musk’s takeover of then-Twitter, Musk released data to respected journalists Bari Weiss and Matt Taibbi. The two quickly published the Twitter Files, an investigative project demonstrating how the government and Twitter’s manual content mediators censor information on Twitter.

Musk publicly vowed to move away from this kind of censorship, likely explaining his less stringent policies and greater reliance on computers, rather than people, to censor content.

Legacy media outlets like the Washington Post, the New York Times and Reuters repeatedly and consistently portray Musk’s takeover of Twitter as negative, citing a rise in hate speech.

Musk has responded to these allegations in at least two interviews, including one with Ben Shapiro at the European Jewish Association this week.

“The overarching goal of the platform,” Musk explained at the event, “is to be the greatest source of truth in the whole world. It’s difficult to get to the perfect truth … but one can always aspire to decrease the error between what is said and reality.”

The Takeaway

Mainstream media outlets and X deal in two different models of communicating truth.

X is a raw set of data, a mishmash of people’s perceptions, lies and, occasionally, the truth as it corresponds to reality. It’s up to viewers to carefully sift through and discern which content is which.

The explicit, manipulated images of Taylor Swift drew more eyes on X than they would in a traditional media outlet, it’s true. But X also spread the word that the photos were fake. It facilitated the wave of fans coming to Swift’s defense.

Mainstream media outlets, on the other hand, operate as arbiters of truth. This prevents people from reading many lies — but it prevents them from reading some truths, too.

Today, I read the news to find truth. Instead, I felt subtly pushed to misleading conclusions.

If I had to choose between the two … I’d rather wade through chaos than deception.

Additional Articles and Resources:

‘The Twitter Files’ – Elon Musk Releases Details of New York Post Censorship

‘The Twitter Files Part Two’ — Documentation of ‘Twitter’s Secret Blacklists’

Jack Dorsey Apologizes for Twitter Failures, While Media Ignores ‘The Twitter Files’

What to Do About Fake Nude Photos and the Horrors of A.I.

Court Rules Government Violated First Amendment With Social Media Censorship

NYT Claims Increase of Infant Deaths Were Due to ‘Abortion Ban’

NYT Report Acknowledges Hamas’ Sexual Violence Months After Oct. 7

The Washington Post’s Newest Report on Texas Mother of Twins Deserves a Careful Read—Here’s Why (Part 1)(Part 2)

Anchor Calls Biological Male Accused of Sexual Impropriety a ‘Very Brave Woman’