Elon Musk has solely been in control of Twitter since late October. However already, he’s turned the corporate and its platform the wrong way up.
Within the days after Musk took over, he booted high executives, slashed rank-and-file headcount, pushed engineers to work more durable, and commenced fast-tracking a hodgepodge of doubtless revenue-generating options, together with charging customers to get or maintain a verification examine mark.
And whereas Musk didn’t instantly change any of Twitter’s insurance policies in opposition to offensive content material, within the hours after Musk took over there was a notable surge in hate speech on the app. A few of the customers posting felt emboldened by Musk’s “free speech absolutist” angle, and actively tried to check the bounds of what they might say on Twitter beneath the corporate’s new management.
Many present and former workers, social media teachers, and human rights advocates are involved that Musk might change Twitter for the more serious, turning it into an much more intense cesspool of adverse content material than it already is. However others hope Musk can breathe new life right into a platform that was already bleeding its most prolific customers and, for years, has struggled to show a revenue.
Listed below are a few of the most important methods Musk has modified the corporate thus far.
Gutting Twitter’s workers
Musk started his reign as Twitter’s chief by firing high executives. Inside hours of the deal closing, CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, and head of authorized coverage, belief, and security Vijaya Gadde had been proven the door.
The week after he took over, Musk continued firing executives, together with Twitter’s advert chief, common supervisor of core tech, and chief advertising officer Leslie Berland (who just some days earlier despatched a cheery be aware asserting that Musk was visiting the San Francisco workplaces). He additionally pulled in additional than 50 Tesla engineers to work for Twitter and assembled his personal circle of trusted advisers.
Now, Musk is shifting on to gutting Twitter’s rank-and-file workers. He has reportedly laid off an estimated 50 % — upward of three,700 workers — from the corporate. Twitter knowledgeable its workers that layoffs would occur by 9 am PT on Friday in a company-wide e-mail. By late Thursday night, a number of workers instructed Recode or posted publicly on Twitter that they’d already been locked out of their work e-mail and Slack accounts with none formal discover of whether or not they had been laid off.
These cuts are the biggest in Twitter’s historical past, and several other present and former workers Recode spoke with are involved that because of this Twitter’s operations as a platform might be in danger. Musk has additionally reportedly deliberate to slash $1 billion from Twitter’s infrastructure prices, similar to server area, based on a report from Reuters, furthering these considerations.
Whereas Musk hasn’t addressed workers straight in regards to the cuts, on Friday afternoon Musk mentioned the layoffs at an investor convention. He framed the layoffs as obligatory as a result of earlier than the deal, “Twitter was having fairly critical income challenges and value challenges,” based on the New York Occasions.
Forward of the layoffs, some workers had been combating to maintain their jobs and show their worth to the corporate by engaged on particular high-priority tasks, a lot of them at Musk’s route.
A number of Twitter workers instructed Recode that some colleagues labored 12-hour shifts over the weekend and slept on sofas within the workplace in an effort to make Musk’s grueling deadlines.
“We’re attempting to shoot our shot,” stated one Twitter worker.
However many workers who had been pulled into particular tasks and labored grueling shifts had been nonetheless laid off, sources instructed Recode.
One Twitter worker described the morale on the firm after the layoffs as low, and stated that many colleagues who survived this spherical of cuts want they’d gotten laid off and gotten severance as an alternative. Twitter is giving many laid-off workers full pay and advantages by means of a minimum of January, though it’s not clear if this utilized to all workers, notably these outdoors the US, sources stated.
Shortly after the cuts, a gaggle of 5 workers sued Twitter in a class-action lawsuit, alleging the corporate did not notify them of the upcoming layoffs as required by the federal Employee Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN Act, that requires sure employers to provide a 60-day discover for mass layoffs within the US.
Emboldening the trolls
Musk has stated his major motive for purchasing Twitter was to make it a haven without spending a dime speech. He’s echoed conservatives’ longstanding considerations that Twitter is politically biased in opposition to right-wing speech regardless of the lack of proof of that bias.
Conservative politicians like former president Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) have celebrated Elon Musk’s possession of Twitter as a significant win, with Trump saying he’s comfortable that Twitter “will not be run by Radical Left Lunatics and Maniacs.”
However Musk’s extra laissez-faire philosophy on content material moderation has additionally induced one other group of individuals to have a good time: trolls spreading racist, sexist, and in any other case hateful speech.
One instance: There was a 500 % enhance in makes use of of the n-word on Twitter within the 12 hours after Musk’s deal was accomplished, based on a research from the Community Contagion Analysis Institute, though none of Twitter’s guidelines have modified on the matter.
Twitter has stated it’s engaged on decreasing the visibility of those posts. However knowledge factors like this have spooked a number of main advertisers that don’t need their model affiliated with offensive content material, together with Normal Motors, Volkswagen, Audi, and Pfizer — who’ve are ready to see extra about what route the corporate will take beneath Musk’s management earlier than they resume adverts.
Musk has tried to settle down advertiser considerations by tweeting a public be aware saying that he doesn’t need Twitter to show right into a “free-for-all hellscape.” On Thursday, Musk spoke with leaders of civil rights teams just like the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, and Colour of Change, promising them that Twitter takes hate speech severely, and that he received’t reinstate any banned accounts (e.g., Trump) till after he units up a content material moderation advisory council, which he stated will a minimum of take a number of weeks.
Musk additionally instructed civil rights leaders he would reverse his determination to restrict the quantity of workers who can entry content material moderation methods, one other one among their considerations.
However by Friday morning, civil rights leaders organizing beneath the banner “#StopToxicTwitter Coalition” stated that Musk had failed to carry true to his guarantees — and ramped up their calls for for main advertisers to pause all adverts on the platform, Musk tweeted on Friday that Twitter had a “huge drop in income” as a result of “activist teams” who he accused of attempting to “destroy free speech in America.”
It’s not simply advertisers which might be leaving Twitter due to Elon; there are additionally early indicators that Elon’s takeover and the ensuing negativity are inflicting some customers to depart.
One report in MIT Know-how Evaluate estimated some 877,000 accounts had been deactivated within the week after Musk’s deal closed. That’s greater than double the standard quantity in that very same time interval, based on knowledge from the agency Bot Sentinel that MIT Tech Evaluate cited.
After all, these are all estimates, and solely from a brief window of time. Twitter has additionally been dropping its most precious “heavy tweeters” in droves for some time now, based on a leaked inside report coated by Reuters, and that predates Musk’s takeover. However time will inform whether or not Musk exacerbates Twitter’s current downside of customers fleeing the platform.
Shaking up Twitter’s inside tradition
Musk has been working Twitter in his personal method, just like how he runs his different corporations: in an advert hoc and intense style. Quite than speaking to his workers first, Musk usually tweets no matter he’s considering, together with his plans for the corporate.
Twitter workers have acquired little official communication, similar to emails or corporate-wide Slack messages, so removed from Twitter’s government management since Musk formally took over. One worker who spoke with Recode on the situation of anonymity referred to as it an “data vacuum.”
That’s been an adjustment for a lot of Twitter workers who’re used to a extra measured, communicative, and structured work tradition. One nameless Twitter worker instructed the Washington Submit that the work environment beneath Elon was like “working in Trump’s White Home.”
Workers are turning to personal or nameless communication platforms like Blind, Sign, and Discord to commiserate, a number of workers instructed Recode, since they not really feel they are often candid on inside Slack or e-mail.
One other main change Elon is making to Twitter’s inside tradition is to drastically ramp up the tempo at which new options are developed.
Usually, product adjustments like those that Musk is proposing — similar to charging customers for verification — would take months and even years to implement at Twitter. Now, workers are being requested to execute them virtually in a single day.
This might drive the type of innovation that Twitter, a money-losing enterprise, may want. Nevertheless it might additionally depart workers demoralized, or worse, compromise the reliability and safety the app offers to its a whole bunch of thousands and thousands of customers. Twitter already has current issues on this entrance: Former Twitter head of safety and inside whistleblower Peiter Zatko warned that the platform “was over a decade behind trade safety requirements” in September.
Making individuals pay for blue examine marks
The primary official product change that Musk confirmed after taking up Twitter was to begin charging $8 per 30 days for “blue examine marks” — or the verification badges that Twitter at the moment offers to public figures like journalists, politicians, and celebrities.
The thought is that verification can be a part of a premium “Twitter Blue” subscription that individuals pay for, which incorporates different advantages like fewer adverts and extra visibility to your Twitter replies to different individuals’s threads. Musk needs to open up verification to extra individuals — not simply journalists, politicians, and celebrities — so long as they’re keen to pay that value.
This has induced main debate amongst people who find themselves at the moment verified — a lot of whom stated they aren’t keen to pay to maintain their verification. After the well-known creator Stephen King complained in regards to the unique $20-a-month price ticket being floated round, Musk jumped in his replies to barter all the way down to $8. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) gave her personal critique of the plan, mocking Musk’s “energy to the individuals” framing of what’s in the end a paid characteristic.
Twitter verification was designed to verify individuals actually are who they are saying they’re on-line. This does a service to Twitter’s consumer base by decreasing scams, serving to to confirm trusted information sources, and stopping individuals from falling for impersonations. Musk’s plan to let anybody pay their method into verification (and per the New York Occasions, Twitter is contemplating eliminating ID checks, in order that anybody may be whoever they need) might run the danger of undermining the belief verification is meant to supply.
Throwing different concepts on the wall
Other than charging for Twitter verification, Musk has been planning an entire new set of adjustments to the platform. Whereas none of those are confirmed but, they’re reportedly within the works or being examined.
These adjustments embody making individuals pay for sure sorts of “excessive threat” video content material (many are speculating it might be grownup video content material), based on the Washington Submit; bringing again Vine, the short-form video app Twitter acquired and later shuttered; altering the login web page to the discover web page; and charging individuals for sending DMs to high-profile customers.
For now, it looks as if Elon is throwing a bunch of concepts out to see which of them work. As one investor in Musk’s deal, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, stated on the Internet Summit convention in November, he expects solely 10 % of Musk’s concepts “will stick.”
To date, a lot of Musk’s concepts (like Vine and paid movies) are previous ones that Twitter has already tried — and failed at.
Over time, it would develop into clear if Musk will be capable of efficiently resurrect these previous concepts — and his new ones, like paying for a examine mark — with a really totally different work tradition and workers than Twitter had earlier than.
We’ll maintain updating this put up as Musk continues to form Twitter, for higher or worse.
Replace, November 4, 6 pm ET: This story has been up to date with new particulars in regards to the Twitter layoffs.