How Elon Musk is altering Twitter, from mass layoffs to verify marks


Elon Musk has solely been in command 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 prime executives, slashed rank-and-file headcount by 50 %, issued remaining staff an ultimatum to be “hardcore” of their work ethic or stop, and fast-tracked a hodgepodge of doubtless revenue-generating options, together with charging customers to get or hold a verification verify mark.

Musk’s mass layoffs and intense administration model have gutted Twitter’s workers, reportedly together with some key engineering features, inflicting considerations in regards to the website’s technical means to remain up and operating.

And his new verify mark system — Musk’s first main product replace — induced chaos within the hours after its launch, as newly checkmarked customers flooded the app with pretend accounts, impersonating figures from Nintendo’s Mario character to former US President George W. Bush. Including to the chaos, by November 11, lower than every week for the reason that new paid checkmark system was launched, it appeared that the Twitter Blue subscription service that allow you to purchase a checkmark was now not working for many individuals.

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. Among the customers posting felt emboldened by Musk’s “free speech absolutist” angle, and actively tried to check the bounds of what they may say on Twitter below the corporate’s new management. Others have examined the bounds of Musk’s free speech stance by making enjoyable of him personally.

Musk doesn’t need to be CEO of Twitter without end — he’s repeatedly mentioned he needs to finally give that job to another person “over time.” Within the meantime, many present and former staff, social media lecturers, and human rights advocates are involved that Musk may change Twitter for the more severe, turning it into an much more intense cesspool of detrimental 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. In a workers assembly on November 10, Musk mentioned chapter was not out of the query if Twitter doesn’t determine a method to earn more money.

Listed here are a few of the most vital methods Musk has modified the corporate to date.

Reinstating some high-profile suspended accounts

From the start, Musk took over Twitter with the said purpose of constructing it a platform that allowed extra controversial speech. Whereas he hasn’t made any drastic modifications but to Twitter’s content material moderation insurance policies, he has began reinstating some suspended accounts.

On November 18, greater than two weeks since he took over the corporate, Musk tweeted that he had reinstated the accounts of comic Kathy Griffin (who was suspended after she impersonated Musk), controversial psychologist influencer Jordan Peterson, and conservative humor information website Babylon Bee. Peterson and Babylon Bee had been each suspended after tweeting anti-trans feedback.

These reinstatements come even though Musk mentioned he would wait to make any main selections about reinstating banned accounts till he kinds a “content material moderation council” to advise him. Musk mentioned he’s nonetheless deciding about what to with former President Donald Trump’s account, though prior to now he has supported bringing again Trump’s account.

Gutting Twitter’s workers

Musk started his reign as Twitter’s chief by firing prime 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. On November 10, Twitter’s prime privateness and safety executives resigned, together with Chief Info Safety Officer Lea Kissner, the corporate’s chief privateness officer, and chief compliance officer, in line with a number of studies. On the identical day, Twitter’s head of belief and security, Yoel Roth, who in latest days had publicly reassured those that Twitter was nonetheless following its content material moderation insurance policies, additionally left.

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 only a few days earlier despatched a cheery be aware asserting that Musk was visiting the San Francisco places of work). He additionally pulled in additional than 50 Tesla engineers to work for Twitter and assembled his personal circle of trusted advisers.

Quickly after, Musk began gutting Twitter’s rank-and-file workers. He laid off an estimated 50 % — upward of three,700 staff — 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 staff advised 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 most important in Twitter’s historical past, and a number of other present and former staff Recode spoke with are involved that because of this Twitter’s operations as a platform may very well be in danger. Musk has additionally reportedly deliberate to slash $1 billion from Twitter’s infrastructure prices, resembling server area, in line with a report from Reuters, furthering these considerations.

Including to the chaos, Twitter’s administration modified its thoughts about a few of its cost-cutting: the corporate reportedly requested dozens of just lately laid-off staff in the event that they needed to return again to work quickly after the layoffs, in line with a report from Bloomberg.

The day after the primary spherical of cuts, Musk tweeted in regards to the layoffs and mentioned them at an investor convention. He framed the layoffs as essential as a result of earlier than the deal, “Twitter was having fairly critical income challenges and value challenges,” in line with the New York Instances.

Twitter’s contract employees had been hit closely by one other spherical of cuts that occurred a couple of week later. Platformer’s Casey Newton reported that round 4,400 out of 5,500 of Twitter’s contractors had been laid off, together with heavy cuts to Twitter’s content material moderation groups. Musk additionally fired at the least twenty staff who posted crucial messages about him on Twitter’s inner Slack channels, or who publicly challenged Musk on Twitter.

Some staff are preventing again. Shortly after the preliminary layoffs, a gaggle of 5 staff sued Twitter in a category motion lawsuit, alleging the corporate didn’t notify them of the approaching layoffs as required by the federal Employee Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN Act, that requires sure employers to present a 60-day discover for mass layoffs within the US. Twitter is giving many laid-off staff full pay and advantages by means of at the least January, though it’s not clear if this utilized to all staff, notably these outdoors the US, sources mentioned.

Per week and a half after the primary wave of layoffs, the drama intensified when Musk issued an ultimatum to staff: Work more durable or stop. In a midnight e mail to workers, Musk wrote that, shifting ahead, Twitter will “must be extraordinarily hardcore” and require staff to work “lengthy hours at excessive depth.” The e-mail linked to a kind asking staff to verify that they need to work on the “new Twitter” by 5 pm ET the following day; if not, they’d be laid off and obtain three months severance.

The ultimatum confirmed how Musk is attempting to pare down Twitter’s workers past the preliminary layoffs that gutted half the corporate.

However Musk could have gone too far along with his calls for. Within the hours earlier than the deadline, Musk reportedly tried to persuade crucial staff to remain on the firm.

Up to now, it’s been reported that 1,200 staff declined to comply with Musk’s phrases and primarily mass resigned from the corporate.

As considerations grew from a few of Twitter’s present and former staff that the location may quickly break due to low ranges of engineering staffing, Musk requested all engineers who “can truly write software program” to satisfy him in individual on the tenth ground of Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters and present examples of latest code they had been answerable for. He even inspired workers to fly to San Francisco the identical day if want be, in line with emails reported by Platformer’s Zoe Schiffer. Satirically, Twitter staff had been locked out of the constructing till Monday for worry of sabotage, so there was confusion about how individuals would do that.

Shaking up Twitter’s inner tradition

Musk has been operating Twitter in his personal method, much like how he runs his different firms: in an advert hoc and intense trend. Slightly than speaking to his staff first, Musk usually tweets no matter he’s considering, together with his plans for the corporate.

Elon’s first message to his workers was in an e mail despatched on November 9 round midnight Pacific time, asserting that he was ending Twitter’s remote-work-for-all coverage, efficient inside hours.

Musk’s intense administration model has been an adjustment for a lot of Twitter staff who’re used to a extra measured, communicative, and structured work tradition. One nameless Twitter worker advised the Washington Publish that the work environment below Elon was like “working in Trump’s White Home.”

Workers are turning to non-public or nameless communication platforms like Blind, Sign, and Discord to commiserate, a number of staff advised Recode, since they now not really feel they are often candid on inner Slack or e mail.

One other main change Elon is making to Twitter’s inner tradition is to drastically ramp up the tempo at which new options are developed.

Usually, product modifications like those that Musk proposed — resembling charging customers for verification — would take months and even years to implement at Twitter. Now, staff are being requested to execute them nearly in a single day.

This might drive the sort of innovation that Twitter, a money-losing enterprise, would possibly want. Nevertheless it may additionally go away workers demoralized, or worse, compromise the reliability and safety the app offers to its tons of of thousands and thousands of customers. Twitter already has present issues on this entrance: Former Twitter head of safety and inner whistleblower Peiter Zatko warned that the platform “was over a decade behind business safety requirements” in September.

Making individuals pay for blue verify marks

The primary official product change Musk confirmed after taking on Twitter was to start out charging $8 monthly for “blue verify marks,” the verification badges that Twitter at the moment offers to public figures like journalists, politicians, and celebrities. Musk needed to open up verify marks to extra individuals, so long as they’re keen to pay that value.

Twitter may also give your account extra precedence in replies, mentions, and search should you subscribe for the brand new service — that means that those that don’t pay up may lose visibility on the platform.

Twitter’s verification program was initially designed to ensure individuals actually are who they are saying they’re on-line. Earlier than you bought a verify mark, you needed to apply for one and present ID proving your actual id matched your Twitter identify. That helped Twitter’s person base be sure that the account they had been wasn’t an imposter.

Now, Musk has eliminated any sort of ID verification from Twitter Blue. Which means anybody who pays $8 a month can fake to be another person, with a verify mark subsequent to their identify. That’s induced main trolling, with some Twitter Blue accounts impersonating well-known individuals like LeBron James, George W. Bush, and even Mario, the Nintendo character. Lots of the new pretend accounts use reasonable profile pictures, names, and handles, and have a verify mark subsequent to their identify, so it’s exhausting to inform who’s actual or who’s pretend.

Elon appears to search out all this amusing, replying with crying-of-laughter emojis to a number of tweets stating the pretend accounts.

This variation additionally induced main debate amongst notable figures who bought their verify mark without cost — lots of whom mentioned they aren’t keen to pay to maintain their verification. Fellow billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban criticized the brand new function, saying Musk “killed probably the most priceless a part of Twitter” by making it more durable for him to search out reliable details about breaking information occasions.

After a gaggle of individuals together with comic Kathy Griffin started trolling Musk’s new coverage by altering their names to “Elon Musk” and making enjoyable of the tech CEO, Musk suspended their accounts and introduced new guidelines: Any Twitter accounts concerned in impersonation not clearly labeled as “parody” could be instantly suspended with out warning, and any verified person who modifications their Twitter identify will quickly have their verify mark eliminated.

Musk additionally made one other sudden change when he axed a brand new “Official” grey verify mark (along with the blue one) rolled out on Thursday — meant to differentiate verified customers who’re additionally notable public figures. Inside hours of the discharge, Musk tweeted that he “killed” the function, and the brand new verify marks left as shortly as they arrived.

Shortly after the function was pulled again, Musk tweeted this rationalization: “Please be aware that Twitter will do numerous dumb issues in coming months. We’ll hold what works & change what doesn’t.”

On November 11, Twitter suspended the subscription service for getting checkmarks — Twitter Blue. Musk mentioned that the function will relaunch on November 29 as soon as it’s “rock strong.”

Emboldening the trolls

Musk has mentioned his main purpose for getting Twitter was to make it a haven without cost 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 joyful that Twitter “will now 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 fun: 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, in line with a research from the Community Contagion Analysis Institute, although none of Twitter’s guidelines have modified on the matter.

Twitter has mentioned it’s engaged on lowering the visibility of those posts. However information factors like this have spooked a number of main advertisers that don’t need their model affiliated with offensive content material, together with Common Motors, Volkswagen, Audi, and Pfizer — who’ve are ready to see extra about what course the corporate will take below Musk’s management earlier than they resume advertisements.

Musk has tried to relax 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 critically, and that he received’t make any main selections about reinstating banned accounts (e.g., Trump) till after he units up a content material moderation advisory council, which he mentioned will at the least take a number of weeks.

Musk additionally advised civil rights leaders he would reverse his choice to restrict the quantity of workers who can entry content material moderation methods, one other one in every of their considerations.

However civil rights leaders organizing below the banner “#StopToxicTwitter Coalition” mentioned that Musk had failed to carry true to his guarantees — and ramped up their calls for for main advertisers to pause all advertisements on the platform, Musk tweeted on Friday that Twitter had a “huge drop in income” because of “activist teams” who he accused of attempting to “destroy free speech in America.”

It’s not simply advertisers which are leaving Twitter due to Elon; there are additionally early indicators that Elon’s takeover and the ensuing negativity are inflicting some customers to go away.

One report in MIT Expertise Assessment 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, in line with information from the agency Bot Sentinel that MIT Tech Assessment cited.

Since taking on, Musk has claimed that, on the contrary, Twitter’s each day energetic customers have reached all-time highs.

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, in line with a leaked inner report coated by Reuters, and that predates Musk’s takeover. However time will inform whether or not Musk reverses or exacerbates Twitter’s present drawback of customers fleeing the platform.

Throwing different concepts on the wall

Other than charging for Twitter verification, Musk has been planning an entire new set of modifications to the platform. Whereas none of those are confirmed but, they’re reportedly within the works or being examined.

These modifications embrace making individuals pay for sure sorts of “excessive danger” video content material (many are speculating it will be grownup video content material), in line with the Washington Publish; bringing again Vine, the short-form video app Twitter acquired and later shuttered; altering the login web page to the discover web page; charging individuals for sending DMs to high-profile customers.

Twitter is contemplating getting into the funds enterprise — an space Musk has expertise in going again to his pre-PayPal days — in line with a New York Instances report citing paperwork filed with the US Treasury Division. It may very well be a part of Musk’s said ambitions to make Twitter a “superapp” known as X, which may very well be much like WeChat in China that’s used not only for posting messages however for issues like making buying purchases or ordering meals supply.

In any other case, it appears 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, mentioned on the Internet Summit convention in November, he expects solely 10 % of Musk’s concepts “will stick.”

Up to now, lots of Musk’s concepts (like Vine and paid movies) are previous ones that Twitter has already tried — and failed at.

Over time, it’ll change into clear if Musk will be capable of efficiently resurrect these previous concepts — and his new ones, like paying for a verify mark — with a really completely different work tradition and workers than Twitter had earlier than.

We’ll hold updating this put up as Musk continues to form Twitter, for higher or worse.

Replace, November 18, 3:06 pm ET: This story, initially revealed on November 4, has been up to date a number of instances, most just lately with new particulars about mass resignations at Twitter and reinstatements of some suspended accounts.



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