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 tougher, and started fast-tracking a hodgepodge of probably revenue-generating options, together with charging customers to get or hold a verification examine mark.
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. Among the customers posting felt emboldened by Musk’s “free speech absolutist” angle, 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 bunch of verified Twitter customers similar 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 teachers, and human rights advocates are involved that Musk may change Twitter for the more severe, turning it into an much more intense cesspool of damaging 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, normal supervisor of core tech, and chief advertising and marketing officer Leslie Berland (who just some days earlier despatched a cheery word 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 transferring on to gutting Twitter’s rank-and-file workers. He has reportedly laid off an estimated 50 p.c — 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 instructed Recode or posted publicly on Twitter that they’d already been locked out of their work email 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, similar to server house, in line with a report from Reuters, furthering these considerations.
Whereas Musk hasn’t addressed staff immediately in regards to the cuts, on Friday afternoon 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 severe income challenges and price challenges,” in line with the New York Occasions.
Forward of the layoffs, some staff had been combating to maintain their jobs and show their worth to the corporate by engaged on particular high-priority initiatives, 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 to be able to make Musk’s grueling deadlines.
“We’re attempting to shoot our shot,” mentioned one Twitter worker.
However many staff who had been pulled into particular initiatives 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 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 way of at the very least January, though it’s not clear if this utilized to all staff, notably these outdoors the US, sources mentioned.
Shortly after the cuts, a bunch of 5 staff sued Twitter in a class-action 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 provide 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 lately laid-off staff in the event that they needed to return to work on the firm, in line with a report from Bloomberg.
Emboldening the trolls
Musk has mentioned his main cause for getting Twitter was to make it a haven at no cost speech. He’s echoed conservatives’ longstanding considerations that Twitter is politically biased towards right-wing speech regardless of the shortage 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 serious win, with Trump saying he’s joyful 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 brought about 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 line with a examine from the Network Contagion Research Institute, despite the fact that none of Twitter’s guidelines have modified on the matter.
Twitter has mentioned it’s engaged on lowering 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 Common 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 advertisements.
Musk has tried to settle down advertiser considerations by tweeting a public word 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 critically, 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 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 workers who can entry content material moderation programs, one other considered one of their considerations.
However by Friday morning, civil rights leaders organizing underneath the banner “#StopToxicTwitter Coalition” said 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 can 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, in line with knowledge from the agency Bot Sentinel that MIT Tech Evaluate cited.
In fact, these are all estimates, and solely from a brief window of time. Twitter has additionally been dropping its most dear “heavy tweeters” in droves for some time now, in line 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 present downside of customers fleeing the platform.
Shaking up Twitter’s inner tradition
Musk has been working Twitter in his personal manner, much like how he runs his different firms: in an advert hoc and intense style. Fairly than speaking to his staff first, Musk usually tweets no matter he’s considering, together with his plans for the corporate.
Twitter workers have obtained little official communication, similar 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 known 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 ambiance underneath Elon was like “working in Trump’s White Home.”
Staff are turning to personal or nameless communication platforms like Blind, Sign, and Discord to commiserate, a number of staff instructed Recode, since they 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 adjustments like those that Musk is proposing — similar 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, would possibly want. Nevertheless it may additionally depart workers demoralized, or worse, compromise the reliability and safety the app gives to its a whole lot of tens of millions 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 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 start out charging $8 per thirty days for “blue examine marks” — or the verification badges that Twitter at the moment provides to public figures like journalists, politicians, and celebrities.
The concept is that verification could be a part of a premium “Twitter Blue” subscription that individuals pay for, which incorporates different advantages like fewer advertisements and extra visibility on your Twitter replies to different individuals’s threads. Musk desires to open up verification to extra individuals — not simply journalists, politicians, and celebrities — so long as they’re prepared to pay that worth.
This has brought about main debate amongst people who find themselves at the moment verified — lots of whom mentioned they aren’t prepared to pay to maintain their verification. After the well-known author Stephen King complained in regards to 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 own critique of the plan, mocking Musk’s “energy to the individuals” framing of what’s in the end a paid function.
Twitter verification was designed to ensure individuals actually are who they are saying they’re on-line. This does a service to Twitter’s person base by lowering scams, serving to to confirm trusted information sources, and stopping individuals from falling for impersonations. Musk’s plan to let anybody pay their manner 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 bunch 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 adjustments their Twitter identify will briefly have their examine mark eliminated. The brand new guidelines present how despite the fact that Musk is a acknowledged free speech absolutist, he’s nonetheless proscribing sure forms of content material on the platform.
Throwing different concepts on the wall
Except for charging for Twitter verification, Musk has been planning a complete 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 embrace making individuals pay for sure forms of “excessive threat” video content material (many are speculating it might 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; 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, mentioned on the Net Summit convention in November, he expects solely 10 p.c of Musk’s concepts “will stick.”
Thus far, lots 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 hold updating this put up as Musk continues to form Twitter, for higher or worse.
Replace, November 7, 1 pm ET: This story, initially printed on November 4, has been up to date with new particulars in regards to the Twitter layoffs and Musk’s new guidelines round impersonation.