Elon Musk has solely been answerable for Twitter since late October. However already, he’s turned the corporate and its platform the other 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 preserve a verification examine mark. Musk additionally may be getting Twitter into the funds enterprise.
And whereas Musk didn’t instantly change any of Twitter’s insurance policies towards 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” perspective, and actively tried to check the boundaries of what they might say on Twitter underneath the corporate’s new management. Others have examined the boundaries of Musk’s free speech stance by making enjoyable of him personally. After a gaggle of verified Twitter customers corresponding to comic Kathy Griffin impersonated Musk by altering their Twitter names, the tech CEO suspended their accounts and tightened the platform’s guidelines round impersonation.
Many present and former staff, social media lecturers, and human rights advocates are involved that Musk may change Twitter for the more serious, 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.
Listed below are among the most vital methods Musk has modified the corporate to this point.
Gutting Twitter’s employees
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 have been proven the door.
The week after he took over, Musk continued firing executives, together with Twitter’s advert chief, normal supervisor of core tech, and chief advertising officer Leslie Berland (who just some days earlier despatched a cheery be aware saying 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.
Now, Musk is transferring on to gutting Twitter’s rank-and-file employees. He has reportedly laid off an estimated 50 p.c — upward of three,700 staff — from the corporate. Twitter knowledgeable its employees that layoffs would occur by 9 am PT on Friday in a company-wide e-mail. By late Thursday night, a number of staff 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 most important in Twitter’s historical past, and several other present and former staff Recode spoke with are involved that consequently Twitter’s operations as a platform could possibly be in danger. Musk has additionally reportedly deliberate to slash $1 billion from Twitter’s infrastructure prices, corresponding to server house, in accordance with a report from Reuters, furthering these issues.
Whereas Musk hasn’t addressed staff instantly concerning the cuts, on Friday afternoon Musk tweeted concerning the layoffs and mentioned them at an investor convention. He framed the layoffs as crucial as a result of earlier than the deal, “Twitter was having fairly critical income challenges and value challenges,” in accordance with the New York Occasions.
Forward of the layoffs, some staff have been combating to maintain their jobs and show their worth to the corporate by engaged on particular high-priority tasks, lots of them at Musk’s course.
A number of Twitter staff instructed Recode that some colleagues labored 12-hour shifts over the weekend and slept on sofas within the workplace with the intention to make Musk’s grueling deadlines.
“We’re attempting to shoot our shot,” mentioned one Twitter worker.
However many staff who have been pulled into particular tasks and labored grueling shifts have been nonetheless laid off, sources instructed Recode.
One Twitter worker described the morale on the firm after the layoffs as low, and mentioned that many colleagues who survived this spherical of cuts want they’d gotten laid off and gotten severance as a substitute. Twitter is giving many laid-off staff full pay and advantages by means of at the very least January, though it’s not clear if this utilized to all staff, significantly these outdoors the US, sources mentioned.
Shortly after the cuts, a gaggle of 5 staff 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 offer a 60-day discover for mass layoffs within the US.
It appears that evidently Twitter has modified its thoughts about some staff. The corporate reportedly requested dozens of not too long ago laid-off staff in the event that they wished to return to work on the firm, in accordance with a report from Bloomberg.
Emboldening the trolls
Musk has mentioned his major cause for purchasing Twitter was to make it a haven at no cost speech. He’s echoed conservatives’ longstanding issues that Twitter is politically biased towards 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 completely satisfied 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 prompted one other group of individuals to rejoice: trolls spreading racist, sexist, and in any other case hateful speech.
One instance: There was a 500 p.c improve in makes use of of the n-word on Twitter within the 12 hours after Musk’s deal was accomplished, in accordance with a research from the Community Contagion Analysis Institute, regardless that none of Twitter’s guidelines have modified on the matter.
Twitter has mentioned 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 course the corporate will take underneath Musk’s management earlier than they resume adverts.
Musk has tried to relax advertiser issues 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 Shade of Change, promising them that Twitter takes hate speech severely, and that he gained’t reinstate any banned accounts (e.g., Trump) till after he units up a content material moderation advisory council, which he mentioned will at the very least take a number of weeks.
Musk additionally instructed civil rights leaders he would reverse his determination to restrict the quantity of employees who can entry content material moderation methods, one other certainly one of their issues.
However by Friday morning, civil rights leaders organizing underneath 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 adverts on the platform, Musk tweeted on Friday that Twitter had a “large 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 Assessment estimated some 877,000 accounts have 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 accordance with knowledge from the agency Bot Sentinel that MIT Tech Assessment cited.
In fact, these are all estimates, and solely from a brief window of time. Twitter has additionally been dropping its Most worthy “heavy tweeters” in droves for some time now, in accordance with a leaked inner report lined 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 inner tradition
Musk has been working Twitter in his personal approach, much like how he runs his different corporations: in an advert hoc and intense style. Reasonably than speaking to his staff first, Musk usually tweets no matter he’s considering, together with his plans for the corporate.
Twitter employees have obtained little official communication, corresponding to emails or corporate-wide Slack messages, so removed from Twitter’s govt 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 staff who’re used to a extra measured, communicative, and structured work tradition. One nameless Twitter worker instructed the Washington Publish that the work environment underneath Elon was like “working in Trump’s White Home.”
Staff are turning to non-public or nameless communication platforms like Blind, Sign, and Discord to commiserate, a number of staff instructed 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 is proposing — corresponding to 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, may want. Nevertheless it may additionally depart employees demoralized, or worse, compromise the reliability and safety the app offers to its a whole lot of hundreds of thousands of customers. Twitter already has current issues on this entrance: Former Twitter head of safety and inner whistleblower Peiter Zatko warned that the platform “was over a decade behind trade safety requirements” in September.
Making folks 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 concept is that verification can be a part of a premium “Twitter Blue” subscription that folks pay for, which incorporates different advantages like fewer adverts and extra visibility in your Twitter replies to different folks’s threads. Musk needs to open up verification to extra folks — not simply journalists, politicians, and celebrities — so long as they’re keen to pay that value.
This has prompted main debate amongst people who find themselves at the moment verified — lots of whom mentioned they aren’t keen to pay to maintain their verification. After the well-known creator Stephen King complained concerning the authentic $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 folks” framing of what’s finally a paid characteristic.
Twitter verification was designed to ensure folks actually are who they are saying they’re on-line. This does a service to Twitter’s person base by decreasing scams, serving to to confirm trusted information sources, and stopping folks from falling for impersonations. Musk’s plan to let anybody pay their approach into verification (and per the New York Occasions, Twitter is contemplating eliminating ID checks, in order that anybody might be whoever they need) may run the chance of undermining the belief verification is meant to supply.
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” can be instantly suspended with out warning, and any verified person who modifications their Twitter title will quickly have their examine mark eliminated. The brand new guidelines present how regardless that Musk is a said free speech absolutist, he’s nonetheless proscribing sure sorts of content material on the platform.
On November 9, Twitter began issuing a grey checkmark along with the blue checkmark badge that learn “Official.” This badge, Twitter director of product Esther Crawford tweeted,would signify ID-verified authenticity for accounts corresponding to politicians, media retailers, and corporations, whereas the blue checkmark can be obtainable to anybody who paid $8 month for Twitter Blue. However quickly after the brand new grey “Official” checkmarks began rolling out on Thursday, Musk tweeted that he “killed” the characteristic, and the brand new checkmarks left as shortly as they arrived.
Shortly after the characteristic was pulled again, Musk tweeted this rationalization: “Please be aware that Twitter will do numerous dumb issues in coming months. We’ll preserve what works & change what doesn’t.”
Throwing different concepts on the wall
Other than charging for Twitter verification, Musk has been planning a complete 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 embody making folks pay for sure sorts of “excessive threat” video content material (many are speculating it will be grownup video content material), in accordance 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 folks for sending DMs to high-profile customers.
Twitter is contemplating coming into the funds enterprise — an space Musk has expertise in going again to his pre-PayPal days — in accordance with a New York Occasions report citing paperwork filed with the US Treasury Division. It could possibly be a part of Musk’s said ambitions to make Twitter a “superapp” referred to as X, which could possibly be much like WeChat in China that’s used not only for posting messages however for issues like making procuring 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 p.c of Musk’s concepts “will stick.”
Over time, it should turn out to be clear if Musk will have the ability to efficiently resurrect these previous concepts — and his new ones, like paying for a examine mark — with a really totally different work tradition and employees than Twitter had earlier than.
We’ll preserve updating this submit as Musk continues to form Twitter, for higher or worse.
Replace, November 9, 1:30 pm ET: This story, initially revealed on November 4, has been up to date with new particulars about Twitter’s creating potential enterprise plans round funds and checkmarks.
Replace, November 7, 1 pm ET: This story, initially revealed on November 4, has been up to date with new particulars concerning the Twitter layoffs and Musk’s new guidelines round impersonation.