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


Elon Musk has solely been accountable 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 commenced fast-tracking a hodgepodge of doubtless revenue-generating options, together with charging customers to get or maintain a verification verify mark.

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 boundaries of what they might say on Twitter below the corporate’s new management.

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 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 here are among the most vital methods Musk has modified the corporate to date.

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 had been proven the door.

The week after he took over, Musk continued firing executives, together with Twitter’s advert chief, basic supervisor of core tech, and chief advertising officer Leslie Berland (who just some days earlier despatched a cheery observe 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.

Now, Musk is shifting on to gutting Twitter’s rank-and-file employees. He’s reportedly planning to lay off some 50 % — 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 informed Recode or posted publicly on Twitter that that they had 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 can be the biggest in Twitter’s historical past, and a number of other present and former staff Recode spoke with are involved that, in the event that they’re executed with out care, 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, based on a report from Reuters, furthering these issues.

Forward of the layoffs, some staff had been preventing to maintain their jobs and show their worth to the corporate by engaged on particular high-priority tasks, a lot of them at Musk’s path.

A number of Twitter staff informed 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 tasks and labored grueling shifts had been nonetheless laid off, sources informed 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 that they had gotten laid off and gotten severance as an alternative. Twitter is giving many laid-off staff full pay and advantages via not less than January, though it’s not clear if this utilized to all staff, notably these exterior the US, sources mentioned.

Shortly after the cuts, a gaggle of 5 staff sued Twitter in a class-action lawsuit, alleging the corporate didn’t 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 present a 60-day discover for mass layoffs within the US.

Emboldening the trolls

Musk has mentioned his major purpose for getting Twitter was to make it a haven free of charge speech. He’s echoed conservatives’ longstanding issues 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 serious win, with Trump saying he’s pleased 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 precipitated one other group of individuals to have a good time: trolls spreading racist, sexist, and in any other case hateful speech.

One instance: There was a 500 % improve in makes use of of the n-word on Twitter within the 12 hours after Musk’s deal was accomplished, based on a examine from the Community Contagion Analysis Institute, although none of Twitter’s guidelines have modified on the matter.

Twitter has mentioned it’s engaged on decreasing 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 Normal Motors, Volkswagen, Audi, and Pfizer — who’ve are ready to see extra about what path the corporate will take below Musk’s management earlier than they resume adverts.

Musk has tried to relax advertiser issues by tweeting a public observe 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 significantly, 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 not less than take a number of weeks.

Musk additionally informed civil rights leaders he would reverse his resolution to restrict the quantity of employees who can entry content material moderation techniques, one other certainly one of their issues.

However by Friday morning, 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 adverts on the platform, Musk tweeted on Friday that Twitter had a “huge 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 go away.

One report in MIT Expertise 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, based on information from the agency Bot Sentinel that MIT Tech Evaluate cited.

After all, these are all estimates, and solely from a brief window of time. Twitter has additionally been shedding its most beneficial “heavy tweeters” in droves for some time now, based on a leaked inside report coated 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 inside 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. Fairly than speaking to his staff first, Musk typically tweets no matter he’s considering, together with his plans for the corporate.

Twitter employees have obtained little official communication, comparable to emails or corporate-wide Slack messages, so removed from Twitter’s government management since Musk formally took over. One worker who spoke with Recode on the situation of anonymity known as it an “info 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 informed the Washington Publish that the work environment below 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 informed Recode, since they not really feel they are often candid on inside Slack or e mail.

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

Usually, product adjustments like those that Musk is proposing — comparable to charging customers for verification — would take months and even years to implement at Twitter. Now, staff are being requested to execute them virtually in a single day.

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

Making individuals pay for blue verify marks

The primary official product change that Musk confirmed after taking up Twitter was to start out charging $8 per 30 days for “blue verify marks” — or the verification badges that Twitter at present 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 to 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 keen to pay that worth.

This has precipitated main debate amongst people who find themselves at present verified — a lot of whom mentioned they aren’t keen to pay to maintain their verification. After the well-known writer Stephen King complained concerning the unique $20-a-month price ticket being floated round, Musk jumped in his replies to barter right down to $8. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) gave her personal critique of the plan, mocking Musk’s “energy to the individuals” framing of what’s finally a paid characteristic.

Twitter verification was designed to verify individuals 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 individuals from falling for impersonations. Musk’s plan to let anybody pay their method into verification (and per the New York Instances, Twitter is contemplating eliminating ID checks, in order that anybody could be whoever they need) may run the chance of undermining the belief verification is meant to supply.

Throwing different concepts on the wall

Apart from charging for Twitter verification, Musk has been planning an entire 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 varieties of “excessive danger” video content material (many are speculating it might be grownup video content material), based on 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 % of Musk’s concepts “will stick.”

Thus far, a lot of Musk’s concepts (like Vine and paid movies) are outdated ones that Twitter has already tried — and failed at.

Over time, it can develop into clear if Musk will be capable to efficiently resurrect these outdated concepts — and his new ones, like paying for a verify mark — with a really completely different work tradition and employees than Twitter had earlier than.

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

Replace, November 4, 3 pm: This story has been up to date with new particulars concerning the Twitter layoffs.


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