How Elon Musk is converting Twitter, from mass layoffs to test marks


Elon Musk has handiest been accountable for Twitter since past due October. However already, he’s grew to become the corporate and its platform the other way up.

Virtually right away after he took over, Musk booted most sensible executives, slashed rank-and-file headcount by way of 50 p.c, issued ultimate workers an ultimatum to be “hardcore” of their paintings ethic or surrender, and fast-tracked a hodgepodge of doubtless revenue-generating options, together with charging customers to get or stay a verification take a look at mark. And that was once all earlier than he allowed former president Donald Trump again at the app, reversing Trump’s former ban at the platform.

Musk’s mass layoffs and intense control taste have gutted Twitter’s workforce, reportedly together with some key engineering purposes, inflicting issues in regards to the website’s technical talent to stick up and operating.

And his new take a look at mark gadget — Musk’s first main product replace — brought about chaos within the hours after its unlock, as newly checkmarked customers flooded the app with pretend accounts, impersonating figures from Nintendo’s Mario personality to former US President George W. Bush. Including to the chaos, by way of November 11, lower than every week for the reason that new paid checkmark gadget was once launched, it gave the impression that the Twitter Blue subscription provider that can help you purchase a checkmark was once not operating for many of us.

And whilst Musk didn’t right away alternate any of Twitter’s insurance policies in opposition to offensive content material, within the hours after Musk took over there was once a notable surge in hate speech at the app. One of the crucial customers posting felt emboldened by way of Musk’s “loose speech absolutist” perspective, and actively attempted to check the boundaries of what they might say on Twitter below the corporate’s new management. Others have examined the boundaries of Musk’s loose speech stance by way of making amusing of him for my part.

Musk doesn’t need to be CEO of Twitter without end — he’s many times stated he desires to ultimately give that activity to any individual else “through the years.” Within the interim, many present and previous workers, social media teachers, and human rights advocates are involved that Musk may just alternate 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 existence right into a platform that was once already bleeding its maximum prolific customers and, for years, has struggled to show a benefit. In a workforce assembly on November 10, Musk stated chapter was once no longer out of the query if Twitter doesn’t determine some way to earn more money.

Listed below are probably the most most important tactics Musk has modified the corporate thus far.

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 debatable speech. Whilst he hasn’t made any drastic adjustments 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 once suspended after she impersonated Musk), debatable psychologist influencer Jordan Peterson, and conservative humor information website Babylon Bee. Peterson and Babylon Bee have been each suspended after tweeting anti-trans feedback.

Those reinstatements come even though Musk stated he would wait to make any main selections about reinstating banned accounts till he paperwork a “content material moderation council” to advise him. Musk stated he’s nonetheless deciding about what to with former President Donald Trump’s account, despite the fact that previously he has supported bringing again Trump’s account.

Gutting Twitter’s workforce

Musk started his reign as Twitter’s leader by way of firing most sensible executives. Inside of hours of the deal remaining, CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, and head of felony coverage, accept as true with, and protection Vijaya Gadde have been proven the door. On November 10, Twitter’s most sensible privateness and safety executives resigned, together with Leader Knowledge Safety Officer Lea Kissner, the corporate’s leader privateness officer, and leader compliance officer, in keeping with a number of stories. At the similar day, Twitter’s head of accept as true with and protection, Yoel Roth, who in fresh days had publicly reassured folks that Twitter was once nonetheless following its content material moderation insurance policies, additionally left.

The week after he took over, Musk persisted firing executives, together with Twitter’s advert leader, normal supervisor of core tech, and leader advertising officer Leslie Berland (who only some days previous despatched a cheery be aware pronouncing that Musk was once visiting the San Francisco places of work). He additionally pulled in additional than 50 Tesla engineers to paintings for Twitter and assembled his personal circle of relied on advisers.

Quickly after, Musk began gutting Twitter’s rank-and-file workforce. He laid off an estimated 50 p.c — upward of three,700 workers — from the corporate. Twitter knowledgeable its workforce that layoffs would occur by way of 9 am PT on Friday in a company-wide e-mail. Through past due Thursday night, a number of workers informed Recode or posted publicly on Twitter that that they had already been locked out in their paintings e-mail and Slack accounts with none formal understand of whether or not they were laid off.

Those cuts are the biggest in Twitter’s historical past, and a number of other present and previous 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, comparable to server house, in keeping with a file from Reuters, furthering the ones issues.

Including to the chaos, Twitter’s control modified its thoughts about a few of its cost-cutting: the corporate reportedly requested dozens of just lately laid-off workers in the event that they sought after to come back again to paintings quickly after the layoffs, in keeping with a file 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 important as a result of earlier than the deal, “Twitter was once having lovely severe profit demanding situations and value demanding situations,” in keeping with the New York Occasions.

Twitter’s contract staff have been hit closely by way of some other spherical of cuts that took place a couple of week later. Platformer’s Casey Newton reported that round 4,400 out of five,500 of Twitter’s contractors have been laid off, together with heavy cuts to Twitter’s content material moderation groups. Musk additionally fired no less than twenty workers who posted essential messages about him on Twitter’s inside Slack channels, or who publicly challenged Musk on Twitter.

Some workers are preventing again. In a while after the preliminary layoffs, a gaggle of 5 workers sued Twitter in a category motion lawsuit, alleging the corporate didn’t notify them of the upcoming layoffs as required by way of the federal Employee Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN Act, that calls for sure employers to present a 60-day understand for mass layoffs in america. Twitter is giving many laid-off workers complete pay and advantages thru no less than January, despite the fact that it’s no longer transparent if this carried out to all workers, in particular the ones outdoor america, resources stated.

Per week and a part after the primary wave of layoffs, the drama intensified when Musk issued an ultimatum to workers: Paintings tougher or surrender. In a middle of the night e-mail to workforce, Musk wrote that, shifting ahead, Twitter will “want to be extraordinarily hardcore” and require workers to paintings “lengthy hours at excessive depth.” The e-mail connected to a sort asking workers to verify that they need to paintings on the “new Twitter” by way of 5 pm ET the following day; if no longer, they might be laid off and obtain 3 months severance.

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

However Musk can have long past too some distance along with his calls for. Within the hours earlier than the time limit, Musk reportedly attempted to persuade essential workers to stick on the corporation.

To this point, it’s been reported that 1,200 workers declined to comply with Musk’s phrases and necessarily mass resigned from the corporate.

As issues grew from a few of Twitter’s present and previous workers that the website may just quickly damage as a result of low ranges of engineering staffing, Musk requested all engineers who “can in truth write tool” to satisfy him in individual at the tenth ground of Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters and display examples of new code they have been chargeable for. He even inspired workforce to fly to San Francisco the similar day if want be, in keeping with emails reported by way of Platformer’s Zoe Schiffer. Paradoxically, Twitter workers were locked out of the construction till Monday for worry of sabotage, so there was once confusion about how folks would do that.

Shaking up Twitter’s inside tradition

Musk has been operating Twitter in his personal manner, very similar to how he runs his different firms: in an advert hoc and intense type. Relatively than speaking to his workers first, Musk frequently tweets no matter he’s considering, together with his plans for the corporate.

Elon’s first message to his workforce was once in an e-mail despatched on November 9 round middle of the night Pacific time, pronouncing that he was once finishing Twitter’s remote-work-for-all coverage, efficient inside of hours.

Musk’s intense control taste has been an adjustment for lots of Twitter workers who’re used to a extra measured, communicative, and structured paintings tradition. One nameless Twitter worker informed the Washington Put up that the paintings surroundings below Elon was once like “operating in Trump’s White Area.”

Workers are turning to personal or nameless communique platforms like Blind, Sign, and Discord to commiserate, a number of workers informed Recode, since they not really feel they may be able to be candid on inside Slack or e-mail.

Any other main alternate Elon is making to Twitter’s inside tradition is to significantly ramp up the tempo at which new options are evolved.

Generally, product adjustments like those that Musk proposed — comparable to charging customers for verification — would take months and even years to enforce at Twitter. Now, workers are being requested to execute them nearly in a single day.

This would force the type of innovation that Twitter, a money-losing trade, would possibly want. However it would additionally go away workforce demoralized, or worse, compromise the reliability and safety the app supplies to its masses of thousands and thousands of customers. Twitter already has current issues in this entrance: Former Twitter head of safety and inside whistleblower Peiter Zatko warned that the platform “was once over a decade in the back of trade safety requirements” in September.

Making folks pay for blue take a look at marks

The primary reputable product alternate Musk showed after taking up Twitter was once to start out charging $8 monthly for “blue take a look at marks,” the verification badges that Twitter these days provides to public figures like newshounds, politicians, and celebrities. Musk sought after to open up take a look at marks to extra folks, so long as they’re prepared to pay that value.

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

Twitter’s verification program was once at the beginning designed to verify folks actually are who they are saying they’re on-line. Sooner than you were given a take a look at mark, you needed to follow for one and display ID proving your actual id matched your Twitter identify. That helped Twitter’s person base be sure that the account they have been taking a look at wasn’t an imposter.

Now, Musk has got rid of any roughly ID verification from Twitter Blue. That suggests any individual who will pay $8 a month can fake to be any individual else, with a take a look at mark subsequent to their identify. That’s brought about main trolling, with some Twitter Blue accounts impersonating well-known folks like LeBron James, George W. Bush, or even Mario, the Nintendo personality. Lots of the new pretend accounts use sensible profile footage, names, and handles, and feature a take a look at mark subsequent to their identify, so it’s onerous to inform who’s actual or who’s pretend.

Elon turns out to search out all this a laugh, replying with crying-of-laughter emojis to a number of tweets declaring the pretend accounts.

This transformation additionally brought about main debate amongst notable figures who were given their take a look at mark at no cost — lots of whom stated they aren’t prepared to pay to stay their verification. Fellow billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban criticized the brand new function, announcing Musk “killed probably the most precious a part of Twitter” by way of making it tougher for him to search out faithful details about breaking information occasions.

After a gaggle of folks together with comic Kathy Griffin started trolling Musk’s new coverage by way of converting their names to “Elon Musk” and making amusing of the tech CEO, Musk suspended their accounts and introduced new regulations: Any Twitter accounts concerned about impersonation no longer obviously categorized as “parody” could be right away suspended with out caution, and any verified person who adjustments their Twitter identify will briefly have their take a look at mark got rid of.

Musk additionally made some other unexpected alternate when he axed a brand new “Legit” grey take a look at mark (along with the blue one) rolled out on Thursday — intended to differentiate verified customers who’re additionally notable public figures. Inside of hours of the discharge, Musk tweeted that he “killed” the function, and the brand new take a look at marks left as briefly as they arrived.

In a while after the function was once pulled again, Musk tweeted this clarification: “Please be aware that Twitter will do loads of dumb issues in coming months. We will be able to stay what works & alternate what doesn’t.”

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

Emboldening the trolls

Musk has stated his number one reason why for getting Twitter was once to make it a haven at no cost speech. He’s echoed conservatives’ longstanding issues that Twitter is politically biased in opposition to right-wing speech in spite of the loss 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 big win, with Trump announcing he’s satisfied that Twitter “will not be run by way of Radical Left Lunatics and Maniacs.”

However Musk’s extra laissez-faire philosophy on content material moderation has additionally brought about some other team of folks to have fun: trolls spreading racist, sexist, and differently hateful speech.

One instance: There was once a 500 p.c build up in makes use of of the n-word on Twitter within the 12 hours after Musk’s deal was once finished, in keeping with a find out about from the Community Contagion Analysis Institute, even if none of Twitter’s regulations have modified at the subject.

Twitter has stated it’s operating on lowering the visibility of those posts. However knowledge issues like this have spooked a number of main advertisers that don’t need their emblem affiliated with offensive content material, together with Normal Motors, Volkswagen, Audi, and Pfizer — who’ve are ready to look extra about what path the corporate will take below Musk’s management earlier than they resume commercials.

Musk has attempted to loosen up advertiser issues by way of tweeting a public be aware announcing that he doesn’t need Twitter to transform 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 Exchange, promising them that Twitter takes hate speech significantly, 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 stated will no less than take a number of weeks.

Musk additionally informed civil rights leaders he would opposite his determination to restrict the quantity of workforce who can get admission to content material moderation techniques, some other considered one of their issues.

However civil rights leaders organizing below 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 commercials at the platform, Musk tweeted on Friday that Twitter had a “huge drop in profit” because of “activist teams” who he accused of looking to “ruin loose speech in The us.”

It’s no longer simply advertisers which might be leaving Twitter as a result of Elon; there also are early indicators that Elon’s takeover and the ensuing negativity are inflicting some customers to depart.

One file in MIT Generation Evaluate 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 frame, in keeping with knowledge from the company Bot Sentinel that MIT Tech Evaluate cited.

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

After all, those are all estimates, and handiest from a brief window of time. Twitter has additionally been wasting its most beneficial “heavy tweeters” in droves for some time now, in keeping with a leaked inside file coated by way of Reuters, and that predates Musk’s takeover. However time will inform whether or not Musk reverses or exacerbates Twitter’s current drawback of customers fleeing the platform.

Throwing different concepts on the wall

Excluding charging for Twitter verification, Musk has been making plans an entire new set of adjustments to the platform. Whilst none of those are showed but, they’re reportedly within the works or being examined.

The ones adjustments come with making folks pay for sure sorts of “excessive possibility” video content material (many are speculating it might be grownup video content material), in keeping with the Washington Put up; bringing again Vine, the short-form video app Twitter obtained and later shuttered; converting the login web page to the discover web page; charging folks for sending DMs to high-profile customers.

Twitter is thinking about getting into the bills trade — a space Musk has enjoy in going again to his pre-PayPal days — in keeping with a New York Occasions file mentioning bureaucracy filed with america Treasury Division. It might be a part of Musk’s said ambitions to make Twitter a “superapp” known as X, which might be very similar to WeChat in China that’s used no longer only for posting messages however for such things as making buying groceries purchases or ordering meals supply.

Another way, it sort of feels as regardless that Elon is throwing a host of concepts out to look which of them paintings. As one investor in Musk’s deal, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, stated on the Internet Summit convention in November, he expects handiest 10 p.c of Musk’s concepts “will stick.”

To this point, lots of Musk’s concepts (like Vine and paid movies) are outdated ones that Twitter has already attempted — and failed at.

Over the years, it’s going to change into transparent if Musk will be capable to effectively resurrect those outdated concepts — and his new ones, like paying for a take a look at mark — with an overly other paintings tradition and workforce than Twitter had earlier than.

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

Replace, November 19, 9:55 pm ET: This tale, at the beginning revealed on November 4, has been up to date a number of instances, maximum just lately with information about Musk reinstating former president Donald Trump’s account.



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