Elon Musk may step down as Twitter CEO sooner than later


Elon Musk has solely been in control of Twitter since late October. However already, he’s turned the corporate and its platform upside down.

Nearly instantly after he took over, Musk booted high executives, slashed rank-and-file headcount by 50 p.c, issued remaining employees an ultimatum to be “hardcore” of their work ethic or give up, and fast-tracked a hodgepodge of probably revenue-generating options, together with charging customers to get or maintain a verification examine mark. And that was all earlier than he allowed former president Donald Trump again on the app, reversing Trump’s former ban on the platform, after which declared “amnesty” for beforehand suspended accounts.

Amid all of the chaos, it’s unclear how lengthy Musk will even keep on as CEO of the social media firm. On December 20, Musk confirmed that he’ll step down as chief government of Twitter as quickly as he finds a substitute, and can ultimately run its “software program & servers” groups. His announcement got here much less than two days after he ran a Twitter poll asking individuals if he ought to step down, and a transparent majority voted in favor of him leaving.

Musk could be leaving Twitter a extra precarious firm than he discovered it. Up to now two months, Musk has gutted Twitter’s employees, reportedly together with some key engineering functions, inflicting issues in regards to the site’s technical ability to stay up and running. Twitter’s advertisers, in the meantime are reportedly fleeing the platform as a result of they’re involved in regards to the resurgence of hate speech beneath Musk’s “free speech absolutist” insurance policies.

And his new examine mark system — Musk’s first main product replace — precipitated chaos within the hours after its launch, as newly checkmarked customers flooded the app with faux accounts, impersonating figures from Nintendo’s Mario character to former US President George W. Bush.

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. Some of the users posting felt emboldened by Musk’s “free speech absolutist” angle, and actively tried to check the bounds of what they might say on Twitter beneath the corporate’s new management. Others have examined the bounds of Musk’s free speech stance by making enjoyable of him personally.

Nevertheless it’s not all enjoyable and video games. Many current and former employees, social media academics, and human rights advocates are involved that Musk might change Twitter for the more serious, turning it into an much more intense cesspool of damaging content material than it already is. Sparking additional concern, Musk has suspended a number of accounts of distinguished journalists over extremely debatable claims that they “doxxed” the billionaire, which many critics noticed as one other signal that Musk is censoring speech he personally disagrees with. However others hope Musk can breathe new life right into a platform that was already bleeding its most prolific users and, for years, has struggled to show a revenue. In a employees assembly on November 10, Musk mentioned chapter was not out of the query if Twitter doesn’t work out a approach to make more cash.

Listed below are a number of the most important methods Musk has modified the corporate up to now.

Creating uncertainty about who will run the corporate

Musk doesn’t wish to be the CEO of Twitter perpetually. He has repeatedly mentioned he desires to give that job to someone else “over time.” However that point may be coming sooner than later as Twitter struggles to stay out of the red and Tesla investors are pressuring Musk to shift his focus back to his extra financially profitable electrical car firm.

On December 18, Musk ran a ballot asking if he ought to step down from Twitter, inviting individuals to vote “sure” or “no.” The outcomes have been clear: 57 p.c of some 17 million respondents voted “sure.”

What’s much less clear is who Musk would choose as his substitute. It’s anybody’s guess. Some floated Jared Kushner, since Musk was pictured spending time with him on the World Cup in Qatar across the time he made the ballot. However Musk appears to assume he’s the one one who can run Twitter, tweeting a reply on Thursday, “Nobody desires the job who can really maintain Twitter alive. There isn’t any successor.”

And even when Musk have been to step down from his day-to-day duties as CEO, he would nonetheless retain management as the the proprietor of the corporate. So whereas Musk has created a number of chaos about Twitter’s management, he’ll nonetheless finally be the one in cost — except he sells the corporate or makes it go bankrupt.

Reinstating suspended accounts

From the start, Musk took over Twitter with the said objective of creating it a platform that allowed extra controversial speech.

A bit of beneath a month after he took over the corporate, Musk reinstated the account of former President Donald Trump, who was beforehand banned from Twitter following the the Jan 6 assault on the US Capitol. The transfer was extremely controversial, though Trump has but to publish any new tweets, saying he prefers his personal social media app, Fact Social.

Musk went even additional in late November. He ran another poll asking whether or not he ought to “provide a basic amnesty” to suspended accounts as lengthy as they haven’t “damaged the regulation or engaged in egregious spam.” A day after posting the ballot — and after a majority of individuals voted “sure” — Musk tweeted that he would begin reinstating suspended accounts the next week. The move raised immediate concerns about whether or not bringing again customers who’ve repeatedly violated Twitter’s hate speech insurance policies would create a flood of abuse on the platform.

Within the days previous to reinstating Trump, Musk additionally reinstated the accounts of comic Kathy Griffin (who was suspended after she impersonated Musk), controversial psychologist influencer Jordan Peterson, and conservative humor information website Babylon Bee. Peterson and Babylon Bee have been both suspended after tweeting anti-trans comments.

These reinstatements come although Musk mentioned he would wait to make any main selections about reinstating banned accounts till he varieties a “content moderation council” to advise him.

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. On November 10, Twitter’s high privateness and safety executives resigned, together with Chief Data Safety Officer Lea Kissner, the corporate’s chief privateness officer, and chief compliance officer, in response to several reports. On the identical day, Twitter’s head of belief and security, Yoel Roth, who in latest days had publicly reassured those who Twitter was nonetheless following its content material moderation insurance policies, also left.

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 notice asserting that Musk was visiting the San Francisco workplaces). He additionally pulled in more than 50 Tesla engineers to work for Twitter and assembled his personal circle of trusted advisers.

Quickly after, Musk began gutting Twitter’s rank-and-file employees. He laid off an estimated 50 percent — upward of three,700 workers — 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 workers advised Recode or posted publicly on Twitter that that they had 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 biggest in Twitter’s historical past, and several other present and former workers Recode spoke with are involved that as a consequence 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, such as server area, according to a report from Reuters, furthering these issues.

Including to the chaos, Twitter’s administration modified its thoughts about a few of its cost-cutting: the corporate reportedly requested dozens of lately laid-off workers in the event that they needed to come back again to work quickly after the layoffs, according to a report 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 essential as a result of earlier than the deal, “Twitter was having fairly critical income challenges and value challenges,” according to the New York Times.

Twitter’s contract staff have been hit closely by one other spherical of cuts that occurred a couple of week later. Platformer’s Casey Newton reported that around 4,400 out of 5,500 of Twitter’s contractors have been laid off, together with heavy cuts to Twitter’s content material moderation groups. Musk also fired at least twenty employees who posted important messages about him on Twitter’s inner Slack channels, or who publicly challenged Musk on Twitter.

Some workers are preventing again. Shortly after the preliminary layoffs, a group of five employees sued Twitter in a category motion lawsuit, alleging the corporate did not 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. Twitter is giving many laid-off workers full pay and advantages by way of a minimum of January, though it’s not clear if this utilized to all workers, significantly these outdoors the US, sources mentioned.

Per week and a half after the primary wave of layoffs, the drama intensified when Musk issued an ultimatum to workers: Work tougher or give up. In a midnight e mail to employees, Musk wrote that, shifting ahead, Twitter will “should be extraordinarily hardcore” and require workers to work “lengthy hours at excessive depth.” The e-mail linked to a kind asking workers to verify that they wish to work on the “new Twitter” by 5 pm ET the following day; if not, they’d be laid off and obtain three months severance.

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

However Musk may have gone too far together with his calls for. Within the hours earlier than the deadline, Musk reportedly tried to convince critical employees to remain on the firm.

Up to now, it’s been reported that 1,200 employees declined to conform to Musk’s phrases and primarily mass resigned from the corporate.

As issues grew from a few of Twitter’s present and former workers that the location might quickly break due to low ranges of engineering staffing, Musk requested all engineers who “can really write software program” to fulfill him in individual on the tenth ground of Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters and present examples of latest code they have been accountable for. He even inspired employees to fly to San Francisco the identical day if want be, according to emails reported by Platformer’s Zoe Schiffer. Mockingly, Twitter workers had been locked out of the constructing till Monday for worry of sabotage, so there was confusion about how individuals would do that.

Shaking up Twitter’s inner tradition

Musk has been operating Twitter in his personal approach, similar to how he runs his other companies: in an advert hoc and intense trend. Reasonably than speaking to his workers first, Musk usually tweets no matter he’s pondering, together with his plans for the corporate.

Elon’s first message to his employees was in an e mail despatched on November 9 round midnight Pacific time, asserting that he was ending Twitter’s remote-work-for-all policy, efficient inside hours.

Musk’s intense administration fashion has been an adjustment for many Twitter employees who’re used to a extra measured, communicative, and structured work tradition. One nameless Twitter worker advised the Washington Post that the work ambiance beneath 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 workers advised 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 modifications like those that Musk proposed — such as charging customers for verification — would take months and even years to implement at Twitter. Now, workers are being requested to execute them nearly in a single day.

This might drive the type of innovation that Twitter, a money-losing enterprise, would possibly want. Nevertheless it might additionally go away employees demoralized, or worse, compromise the reliability and safety the app offers to its lots of 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 business safety requirements” in September.

Making individuals pay for blue examine marks

The primary official product change Musk confirmed after taking up Twitter was to begin charging $8 per month for “blue check marks,” the verification badges that Twitter presently offers to public figures like journalists, politicians, and celebrities. Musk needed to open up examine marks to extra individuals, as lengthy as they’re prepared to pay that value.

Twitter may also give your account extra precedence in replies, mentions, and search if you happen to subscribe for the brand new service — which means that those that don’t pay up might lose visibility on the platform.

Twitter’s verification program was initially designed to ensure individuals actually are who they are saying they’re on-line. Earlier than you bought a examine mark, you needed to apply for one and present ID proving your actual id matched your Twitter title. That helped Twitter’s person base guarantee that the account they have been wasn’t an imposter.

Now, Musk has eliminated any type of ID verification from Twitter Blue. Meaning anybody who pays $8 a month can fake to be another person, with a examine mark subsequent to their title. That’s precipitated main trolling, with some Twitter Blue accounts impersonating well-known individuals like LeBron James, George W. Bush, and even Mario, the Nintendo character. Lots of the new faux accounts use real looking profile photographs, names, and handles, and have a examine mark subsequent to their title, so it’s exhausting to inform who’s actual or who’s faux.

Elon appears to seek out all this amusing, replying with crying-of-laughter emojis to a number of tweets mentioning the faux accounts.

This modification additionally precipitated main debate amongst notable figures who received their examine mark at no cost — many of whom mentioned they aren’t prepared to pay to maintain their verification. Fellow billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban criticized the new feature, saying Musk “killed probably the most worthwhile a part of Twitter” by making it tougher for him to seek out reliable details about breaking information occasions.

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 rules: Any Twitter accounts concerned in impersonation not clearly labeled as “parody” could be instantly suspended with out warning, and any verified person who modifications their Twitter title will quickly have their examine mark eliminated.

Musk additionally made one other sudden change when he axed a brand new “Official” grey examine mark (along with the blue one) rolled out on Thursday — meant to differentiate verified customers who’re additionally notable public figures. Inside hours of the discharge, Musk tweeted that he “killed” the characteristic, and the brand new examine marks left as shortly as they arrived.

Shortly after the characteristic was pulled again, Musk tweeted this rationalization: “Please notice that Twitter will do a lot of dumb issues in coming months. We’ll maintain what works & change what doesn’t.”

On November 11, Twitter suspended the subscription service for buying checkmarks — Twitter Blue. Musk mentioned that the feature will relaunch on November 29 as soon as it’s “rock stable.”

However Musk introduced one other delay on November twenty first when he mentioned he would postpone the relaunch of the service until, “there may be excessive confidence of stopping impersonation.”

Emboldening the trolls

Musk has mentioned his main purpose for purchasing Twitter was to make it a haven at no cost speech. He’s echoed conservatives’ longstanding concerns that Twitter is politically biased towards right-wing speech regardless of the lack of evidence 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 ownership of Twitter as a significant win, with Trump saying he’s completely satisfied 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 rejoice: trolls spreading racist, sexist, and in any other case hateful speech.

One instance: There was a 500 p.c enhance in makes use of of the n-word on Twitter within the 12 hours after Musk’s deal was accomplished, in response to a research from the Network Contagion Research Institute, regardless 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 General Motors, Volkswagen, Audi, and Pfizer — who’ve are ready to see extra about what route the corporate will take beneath Musk’s management earlier than they resume adverts.

Musk has tried to calm down advertiser issues by tweeting a public notice 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 groups just like the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, and Colour of Change, promising them that Twitter takes hate speech significantly, and that he gained’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 mentioned will a minimum of take a number of weeks.

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

However civil rights leaders organizing beneath 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 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 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 Evaluation estimated some 877,000 accounts have been deactivated within the week after Musk’s deal closed. That’s extra than double the same old quantity in that very same time interval, in response to knowledge from the agency Bot Sentinel that MIT Tech Evaluation cited.

Since taking up, Musk has claimed that, on the contrary, Twitter’s daily active users have reached all-time highs.

After all, these are all estimates, and solely from a brief window of time. Twitter has additionally been shedding its most dear “heavy tweeters” in droves for some time now, in response to a leaked internal report covered by Reuters, and that predates Musk’s takeover. However time will inform whether or not Musk reverses or exacerbates Twitter’s present downside of customers fleeing the platform.

Throwing different concepts on the wall

Apart from 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 individuals pay for sure forms of “high risk” video content (many are speculating it will be grownup video content material), according to the Washington Post; bringing again Vine, the short-form video app Twitter acquired and later shuttered; altering the login page to the explore page; charging people 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 response to a New York Times report citing paperwork filed with the US Treasury Division. It may very well be a part of Musk’s said ambitions to make Twitter a “superapp” referred to as X, which may very well be much like WeChat in China that’s used not only for posting messages however for issues like making buying purchases or ordering meals supply.

In any other case, it appears as although 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.”

Up to now, lots of Musk’s concepts (like Vine and paid videos) are outdated ones that Twitter has already tried — and failed at.

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

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

Replace, December 21, 1 pm ET: This story, initially printed on November 4, has been up to date a number of instances, most lately with particulars about Musk’s potential departure as CEO.

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