A look back at Elon Musk’s chaotic first month on Twitter



CNN

Sunday officially marks one month since the world’s richest man took the helm of Twitter.

During that time, Elon Musk initiated mass layoffs and gave remaining employees a cryptic ultimatum, reinstated the accounts of controversial figures including former President Donald Trump, and launched — then flagged — a charge plan for Twitter’s iconic blue ticks.

After spending months engaged in an unsuccessful legal battle to get out of his original offer to buy Twitter, Musk made his first stormy entrance to the company’s offices on October 26, holding a sink. (In a video of the incident shared on Twitter, he wrote: “Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in!)

Since then, the billionaire seems to have not let up on his whirlwind first month as ‘Chief Twit’. Here’s a look at the range of ways Musk (who is also, at the same time, CEO of his fellow companies Tesla and SpaceX) has already made his mark on one of the world’s most influential social media platforms.

Almost immediately after Musk completed his dramatic $44 billion deal to buy Twitter, he fired former CEO Parag Agrawal and other executives. He then became CEO and sole director of the platform, according to a securities filing.

The dramatic leadership shakeup, however, was only the first taste of the major personnel overhaul to come. Musk launched widespread layoffs across the company, slashing its total workforce by roughly 50% in a matter of days.

On the eve of November 3rd and on November 4th, many now former Twitter employees began posting on the platform that they had been banned from their corporate email accounts as the job cuts began to play out in a very dramatic, public way. .

The layoffs affected departments such as ethical artificial intelligence, marketing and communications, search, public policy and more. As workers bid farewell to their colleagues online (many sharing blue hearts and greeting emojis to signify their job losses on Twitter), Musk remained largely silent, at least on the job cuts.

In another dramatic move by the new boss, Musk publicly fired a software engineer who had survived the initial round of cuts but then questioned Musk on Twitter.

In an internal email late at night following the massive staff cuts, Musk asked Twitter’s remaining employees to commit to “extremely hard” work or else leave the company with severance pay.

“Going forward, to create a breakthrough Twitter 2.0 and succeed in an increasingly competitive world, we will need to be extremely tough,” Musk wrote in the memo sent on Nov. 16. “This will mean working long hours at high intensity. Only outstanding performance will constitute a passing grade.”

In the memo, Musk goes on to describe how Twitter will be “much more engineering-driven” and then gives staff an ultimatum. “If you’re sure you want to be part of the new Twitter, click ‘yes’ on the link below,” directing staff to what appears to be an online form.

Musk said that any employee who hasn’t done so by 5 p.m. ET the following day, Thursday, he will receive three months of severance.

In the shadow of the mass exodus of workers, a walkout of advertisers was also being prepared.

Since Musk’s buyout, a handful of brands — from General Mills to North Face to Volkswagen Group — have confirmed a pause in advertising on the social network as civil society groups raise renewed concern about the company’s direction under Musk.

About a week after taking over the company, Musk said he had seen a “massive drop in revenue.”

“Twitter has had a huge drop in revenue due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we’ve done everything we can to appease activists,” he said in a Nov. 4 tweet. “Extremely confused above! They are trying to destroy free speech in America.”

Another aspect of Twitter that Musk has been quick to upend is one of the platform’s most familiar features to its users: the verified blue checkmarks that had long been used to confirm the authenticity of government officials, journalists and other public figures.

“The current Twitter lords and peasants system of who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark is bullsh*t,” Musk tweeted on Nov. 1. “Power to the people! Blue for $8/month.”

Sure enough, on November 5th, Twitter released an updated version of its iOS app that allowed users to pay a monthly fee to get a blue checkmark on their profiles. The update, as described on Apple’s App Store at the time, said users would now have to pay $7.99 a month for the company’s Twitter Blue subscription to get a checkmark on the platform, “like celebrities , companies and politicians are already following you.”

Within days of the subscription service’s launch, Twitter was flooded with a wave of celebrity and corporate impersonators who quickly gamed the new system to pose as brands and prominent figures.

Chaos ensued. In one viral example, a fake account, which featured a newly purchased blue checkmark purported to be pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, tweeted that a critical diabetes drug would now be free.

In the wake of the chaos, Musk eventually announced that he would delay the launch of the subscription service until the end of the month.

“Bet restarting Blue Verified by November 29th to make sure it’s stable,” Musk tweeted on November 15th.

On Nov. 24, Musk gave a slightly different target date for the relaunch, Dec. 2, and offered more details about the future service, including a set of checkmark colors to indicate the type of verified account.

On November 19, Musk reinstated former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account, nearly two years after it was permanently banned following the January 6, 2021 attack on Capitol Hill.

The move came shortly after the accounts of several other controversial, previously banned or banned users were reinstated, including conservative Canadian podcaster Jordan Peterson, right-wing satire website Babylon Bee, comedian Kathy Griffin and MP Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Before Trump’s Twitter account was reinstated, Musk posted a poll asking users of the platform if Trump should be reinstated – where a small majority (51.8%) voted yes.

“The people have spoken. Trump will be restored,” Musk tweeted. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei.” (Latin for “the voice of the people is the voice of God”.).

Trump has previously said he would stay on his own platform, Truth Social, rather than return to Twitter, and has yet to tweet since his account came back online.

But a change in his approach could have major political implications, as Trump has said he will seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

After conducting another poll on Twitter, Musk said on Nov. 24 that he would begin reinstating most previously banned Twitter accounts starting next week. This would mark his more long-term move to reverse the social media platform’s policy of permanently suspending users who repeatedly violated its rules.

The Thanksgiving announcement came after most respondents voted in favor of his poll on whether to offer “a blanket amnesty to suspended accounts, provided they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam ».

Once again, Musk tweeted that “the people have spoken.”

His recent decisions to bring back previously banned accounts based on his poll results on the platform are in stark contrast to how Musk has previously said he would handle such options.

Just a day after acquiring Twitter, Musk said the social media company would “form a content coordination board with widely divergent views.”

“No major content decisions or account remediation will be made prior to the convening of this board,” Musk added.

It is not immediately clear whether this board was created, convened or involved in the decision-making behind the return of Trump and the previously banned accounts.

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