Elon Musk's first 10 days in charge of Twitter are making people forget about many of the microblogging site's old problems.
- Elon Musk has laid off half of Twitter's approximately 3,700 employees.
- Those left have reportedly been urged to work 12-hour days and weekends to make the service changes Musk has demanded.
- Several large advertisers have pulled ads from Twitter amid concern Musk will relax its content moderation policies.
- Musk has offered all users Twitter verification for $8 per month.
- Twitter has paused other verification policy changes until after the Nov. 8 U.S. elections.
- Musk told civic leaders that policies like the suspension of former President Trump's account won't be reversed until reviewed by a new advisory panel in the coming weeks.
The world's richest man completed his on-again, off-again $44 billion buyout on Oct. 28, meeting the deadline to avert a trial in a lawsuit Twitter brought after Musk tried to back out of the deal he signed in April. Since assuming ownership, Musk has:
- Fired the company's top executives and dissolved its board, taking control as Twitter's sole director
- Laid off some 3,700 Twitter employees accounting for half of the company's workforce, citing losses of more than $4 million per day
- Posted, then deleted, a link to a conspiracy theory about the attack on the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
- Blamed "a massive drop in revenue" at Twitter since he bought it on "activist groups pressuring advertisers," tweeting that the activists are "trying to destroy free speech in America"
- Announced Twitter would permanently suspend accounts "engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying 'parody,'" after many users changed their account names to "Elon Musk" to protest his plans to charge $8 per month for the blue checkmark signifying the service has verified an account owner's identity.
And that's not everything: For example, Musk reportedly fired Twitter's top executives "for cause" to avoid paying their golden parachute severance packages.
The employees who weren't axed were reportedly instructed by managers to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, to overhaul Twitter's verification system in a week as Musk demanded. Musk also asked some 50 Tesla, Inc. (TSLA) employees to review Twitter's software code, according to the same report, despite the fact that the maker of electric vehicles is a separate, publicly listed company.
By Nov. 6, Twitter was asking "dozens" of the workers laid off two days earlier to return, either because they were dismissed by mistake or because their skills turned out to be essential to implement planned site changes, according to reports.
Twitter has since offered to verify any account's identity for $8 per month, while delaying any changes for those already verified until after the Nov. 8 U.S. elections.
How It Started
On Oct. 27, the day Musk completed his acquisition of Twitter, he pledged to Twitter's advertisers he would ensure the platform is "warm and welcoming to all," not "a free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said with no consequences. Advertisers who use Twitter primarily to promote their brands rather than market products have been nervous about Musk's acquisition of Twitter from the start, based on his plans to cut staff and past statements prioritizing free speech over content moderation.
Advertisers including General Motors Company (GM), General Mills Inc. (GIS), and Mondelez International (MDLZ) have reported recently halting Twitter ads, while Havas Media Group and Interpublic Group of Companies Inc. (IPG) have urged their advertising clients to do so.
On Nov. 2, Musk met with leaders of several civic groups, tweeting afterward that he explained to them "how Twitter will continue to combat hate & harassment & enforce its election integrity policies." He promised them content moderation policies including the Twitter exile of former U.S. president Donald Trump would not change for weeks, until reviewed by the company's planned content moderation council.
The same day, numerous civic groups, including some represented at the meeting, signed a group letter to Twitter's corporate advertisers, urging them to warn Musk they would pull ads "if he follows through on plans to undermine the social network’s community standards and content moderation."
How It's Going
The use of racist terms on Twitter reportedly spiked after Musk's takeover, according to some researchers. Yoel Roth, the head of safety and integrity at Twitter, said a small number of accounts posted "a ton of tweets that include slurs and other derogatory terms" over the two days through Oct. 29.
At about the same time, Twitter was flooded with antisemitic tweets from supporters of the rapper Ye, a friend of Musk whose account was temporarily suspended for tweets about "the Jews," as well as pro basketball star Kyrie Irving, suspended by the Brooklyn Nets after he refused to apologize for tweeting a link to an antisemitic film. On Nov. 4, Twitter deleted another tweet by Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, for violating its terms of service.
Musk's management of Twitter has been widely described in the media as ushering in "chaos," earning him unflattering analogies to Trump.
Musk's Other Plans for Twitter
The controversy over Musk's personnel and moderation policies has overshadowed his pledges to rapidly improve Twitter's features. On Nov. 5, Musk tweeted that Twitter would soon offer users the ability to attach long texts to tweets, "ending absurdity" of screenshots.
Musk followed up by promising "creator monetization for all forms of content." He later criticized the service's notoriously feeble search function. "That will also get a lot better pronto," tweeted Musk, whose profile page on the platform describes him as "Twitter Complaint Hotline Operator."